Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Final Thing About Orchestra

This morning around 3:00ish, I got up and bundled up with jeans and socks and shoes, a big coat and a scarf, and I went outside to see the Leonid meteor shower. It was cloudy to the south but clear to the north, and I hoped the sky would clear so I could see something remarkable. It didn't.

I did see a brilliant streak through a break in the clouds, though, and that was enough to make me settle in on a cold, metal chair to see the show. The thing is, there was no show. In the 20 minutes I sat outside, I saw only three or four meteor streaks, and that was it. What proved more interesting were the sounds you can hear in the middle of the night in a neighborhood like mine.

You can hear traffic from the highway with truck tires making different tones from car tires, and you can hear the furnace kick on. You can hear the wind rattle the empty trees and the leaves they've dropped being pushed along the pavement with that same wind. I never heard a single dog bark, but I did hear some crunching in the trees across the street by what I thought might be deer hooves.

I finally gave up on the shower and went back in, tucked myself back into the warm bed, and went to sleep with a cat hogging most of the pillow. Now, I think it's time for a nap.

Not to belabor the point, but here is one final entry in my series of orchestra posts for you to read while I nod off for a little bit. It was yesterday's column in Small Town Newspaper.


The White House has hosted several installments of a music series this year, providing young students with an opportunity to meet accomplished musicians performing jazz, country and Latin forms of music. Just two weeks ago, the White House opened its doors for a day of classical music.

One hundred twenty middle school and high school students from around the country participated in workshops and master classes conducted by world-class musicians—violinist Joshua Bell, guitarist Sharon Isben, pianist Awadagin Pratt and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The Blue Room and the Map Room and the East Room were transformed into lesson rooms, and the day was capped off by a classical concert.

How fortunate for those select students to be exposed to such talent and to see where hard work and determination can lead. And how beneficial for all young people to see their nation’s leadership place such high value on the arts.

Closer to home than Washington, D.C., our area of Ohio is chock full of opportunities for students interested in classical music. Most local school districts are not able to provide an orchestra program, but there are some exceptions. Students from these few programs have gone on to join the Canton Youth Symphony, and farther north to join the Akron Youth Symphony and the youth orchestra in Cleveland.

Many more have found a welcoming seat right here at home in the Tuscarawas Philharmonic where they have been able to express their love of music making for decades beyond their school years. One such musician is Carol France, a Dover resident who learned to play the violin in elementary school and joined the orchestra in 1948. Years later, Carol is still going strong as a musician, a role she relishes as her avocation.

I have only been playing with the Philharmonic for nine years, but I have come to cherish my place in the group as well. Because my high school had a large wind orchestra, I was exposed to beautiful music as a budding French horn player. But then I set the instrument aside for twenty years and did not rediscover the joy of it until my late thirties. Now, after years of private lessons and hours of practicing in an attempt to make up for lost time, I know full well the importance of having an outlet for music making, and I know the hole not having this outlet leaves behind.

Last week, the Philharmonic performed its first concert of the season, and even during rehearsals, I often found myself nearly overwhelmed with appreciation for the group. Without this local orchestra, something that is rare in a rural area like Tuscarawas County, I would be sitting alone in my house with a French horn and no place to play. I’m not kidding when I say the mere idea of such a possibility makes me shiver and gasp with dread.

Of course, I can play privately and enjoy the solitary experience on some level, but what I can achieve as an individual pales in comparison to the accomplishment of an entire orchestra. A stage full of musicians working as a unified group can create an experience that transcends the mere notes on the page, an experience that is shared by both the musicians and the audience members alike.

I recognize not everyone prefers classical music—some people just don’t enjoy it, and some people falsely think of it as elitist. But a classical performance is about so much more than the music that is played. It expresses and inspires a full range of emotions, and it demonstrates a level of creativity and thought that is uniquely human.

In an age when even metropolitan orchestras are folding for lack of funds, it is my hope that more area residents will recognize the value of our local orchestra and see it as the rare gem that it is. Having an orchestra of our own is an asset that makes classical music accessible to everyone.

It is also my hope that local musicians, both students and adults, can continue to discover inspiration and encouragement in their own back yard and not have to travel all the way to the White House to find it.


E said...

December 13th-14th is the next big shower. We are watching. Its the day after your next concert right?

dive said...

Shame about the Leonids, Robyn, but hey, three or four falling stars is three or four more wishes you get.

Another great and inspiring orchestra piece, too.