How many times do profound moments come from the thoughts of our students? I was reading an essay for a scholarship application in which the young lady, when asked why music is important to her said, “she likes to see people smile when they listen to her play the piano.”
Isn’t this enough? We don’t have enough smiles in our world. We’re told to smile when our picture is being taken and if we inadvertently see our image in a window, we usually see a frown. But when music is part of the environment, the climate indeed changes. Our terrific high school jazz combo recently performed at a political function. Invited guests would walk in the doors with a rather stressed and uncomfortable look on their faces and as soon as they heard the jazz music, their faces would soften and a smile would appear! I love seeing the smiles of parents as they watch their child perform in their first recital.
I wonder what could be more important and significant than making another person smile? If our students do nothing more than make people smile, what’s wrong with that? Of course, behind those smiles there’s a lot of hard work and learning going on. There might even be tears of frustration. But when our young musicians play for others, it translates to smiles. Our world could use a lot more smiles, don’t you think?
Here in the Cincinnati Community Orchestra, our director Dr. Gerry Doan, designs a variety of programs. For the first concert this season, the emphasis was on the music of Brahms, and therefore, a fairly narrow perspective on the extensive breadth of classical music. However, if you are a fan of Brahms or just plain romantic music, a concert like that is up your alley. From a performer’s perspective, the opportunity to perform two lengthy works by the same composer, helps us to learn and reinforce performance style of a particular composer. When you are reading the music, you recognize a similar phrase or pattern that may have occurred in the other work and you can apply your knowledge to the music.
If we compare musical concerts to salad bars (I know, wierd, but that’s how my brain operates) this would be analagous to the person who loves to make one large green salad from the salad bar. She may put a lot of ingredients onto that salad, but it is still one salad.Then there are those customers who prefer the salad bar with about 50 different choices of salads. Count me in on that one. There’s tossed salads, potatoe salads, vegetable salads, jello salads, chicken salad, and so on. The plate isn’t large enough because you want a taste of everyone!
OK, if you are that kind of a salad bar consumer, you will love our upcoming concert! Dr. Doan has programmed a wide variety of orchestral selections from classical through music written near the close of the 20th century. Yet, Dr. Doan has cleverly tied all of the pieces together in a theme of “flying.” And some of the music flys by way fast!
Playing several pieces of contrasting style and approach is tricky. All of the musicians have to be nimble and ready to change styles. Playing John Williams soundtracks requires a different approach than playing a Rossini overture. But wait a minute! Both works serve essentially the same purpose: they enhance a visual experience.
Deciding what to perform on a concert requires a lot of thought and past experience. Know that any CCO concert you attend will be a concert that originated with many hours of thought by the director followed with many hours of personal practice and orchestral rehearsal before we present it to the public. We hope you fly with us on Saturday December 7!
Musicians have their preferences when it comes to music. All of us in the Cincinnati Community Orchestra have our favorite composers and pieces of music. When the music for each concert is announced, musicians search for the juicy parts that they love to play. As an oboist, I automatically search for those soulful, languid yet exotic melodies: think Scheherazade. None of those in this concert.
We’ll be performing the Symphony #4, and the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello on Saturday, October 19.So many of our musicians are pumped up for this concert. Playing not one, but two works by Brahms is the ultimate for our musicians. I decided that I had better get with the program and see what it is about the music of Johannes Brahms that draws and inspries so many musicians (and listeners). I asked musicians – why do you like Brahms’ music so much? Answers: “it is so lush, the melodies are so beautiful, and it is easy to listen to.”
Surprise for me! I have always looked at his music as long and busy without going anywhere. So during our rehearsals I have been listening to what is happening around me (note to budding musicians out there – you should be doing this from day one…). I’m realizing that melodies are what makes up his music. I have at least three or four in my head all the time from this music. So as I am listening to what’s around me, while playing my part (musicians have to be multi-taskers) I’m hearing a melody tossed around the orchestra but almost always present. Occasionally Brahms will let the melody fade away and let supporting rhythms and harmonies take front stage, but never for long.
And this is the kicker for me: his music is long! Be prepared for long first movements. I never could figure out how composers could fill up an hour with a bunch of music notes. My preference is for shorter works that I know I have the stamina to process. But thanks to another musician friend of mine, the secret was revealed: people love to listen to beautiful melodies. Melodies are far easier to digest than rhythmic patterns for most listeners. And that is why Brahms is so beloved by musicians and audiences alike. We all love a good melody, like we love a good glass of wine or a good book. And I now have a whole different perspective on Brahms. Even when I don’t play a pretty melody, I can hear one coming from all sides of me!
See you on October 19 at 7:30 p.m.!
Church of the Saviour
8005 Pfeiffer Road
Cincinnati, OH 45242
September always means a new year for anyone involved in education – and that means most of us- parents, kids, teachers, tax payers, shop owners, yes all of us are involved in education in some degree and way. Educating our children is a responsibility of all of us in our society.
And a well rounded education for a child includes arts education. Unfortunately the cycle continues of reducing arts programs in schools. Local schools still may offer arts classes, but changes in scheduling often prohibit students from taking arts classes. There is a relationship between those students in the arts and students who are in the top percentage of their class. Inevitably, these students have to choose between an arts class or a college AP class.
How unfair for the student! As a teacher, administrator, student, or taxpayer, if you think the arts are important to our society, advocate for this. It doesn’t take a lot of work. Most of all is to be informed about what is happening in your school district. There are also great sites like the Americans for the Arts- http://www.artsusa.org/get_involved/advocate.asp – that offer strong evidence on the value of the arts such as students with high levels of arts involvement are less likely to drop out of school.
As a director of a community arts school, our role is to support and expand the learning that most often begins in the public school program. Early exposure in younger grades to singing, movement and music making can spark a lifetime of musical enjoyment.
Anyone intimately involved in the arts has a responsibility to advocate for access to the arts for everyone. I can’t imagine a life without singing, dancing or beautiful images. Make this a resolution for your new year!
I’ve been on vacation for the last week plus. My doctor has told me that I need to relieve stress so on this vacation I tried very hard not to mix work with pleasure. Yet there are moments that we experience as artists that just happen. I’m calling them disappearing moments of art.
Nature is unequivocally the finest artist there is. We spent most of our time in the woods of northern Michigan and Canada. Out of pure quiet comes a short rhythmic phrase from a bird unseen, one that composers may try to replicate, but it will never be the same. The sound of accumulating waves on the lake at tide create a hypnotic and soothing rhythm.
Another disappearing moment of art I discovered on this trip were the fireworks on July 4. As I watched the fireworks off the beaches of Mackinaw Bay, I experienced the rhythm, structure and patterns of these fleeting moments of art. I don’t know who makes fireworks and how they work, but to me they are works of art.
Another fleeting moment of art: we were driving the pristine Canadian highways, which clearly were created from huge boulders of rocks that were cut to create the highways. On top of the boulders there were little rock sculptures. Who put them there? Why? A big mystery, but such a delight to observe as the miles went by.
Disappearing moments of art. They are everywhere, and they make our world just a little bit brighter and magical.
One of the reasons I have the world’s best job is that I work with amazing and talented faculty. Amazing and talented students seem to find these teachers and when the two are combined, watch out. That’s what we have experienced these past two weeks in our new high school “immersion” program. 175 students, most from around our community, but about 45 from out of state auditioned and were accepted into our programs in chamber music, string orchestra, jazz, voice, acting, ballet and musical theatre. This was our first year in which we offered all our high school programs simultaneously. We wanted to immerse these students in their specific arts area, but also to be exposed and learn from each other. Well, we learned that will take some time. But we’re on to something. Attending rehearsals and concerts, I was struck by what motivated young students can achieve in one or two weeks. These students are performing professional works and act like it’s a piece of cake! There is a lot of work behind making a program like this work. But the payoff is so worth it. Amazing and talented faculty and amazing and talented students make our lives fuller and this world a little bit brighter.