Who are those older people?

October 17, 2008 at 9:38 am 3 comments

Who are those older people?

We’re heading into family weekend, and usually on family weekend the music department has its first orchestra concert.  This year is no exception and Peter has planned a wonderful program of Janacek, Ginastera and Beethoven.  If you’ve been to an IAAO concert before,  you’ve probably noticed a few older faces in the group and wondered why they were there.  I mean, can’t these kids play by themselves?  Of course they can.  But these older players serve a number of purposes for us.  They provide an educational opportunity that’s rich in tradition.

First, the amount of music written for a chamber orchestra is pretty limited, music written for 30 or so players.  In fact, most of it is limited to a much older style, the Baroque and Classical periods, Bach through Mozart and Beethoven.  Later composers wrote for larger groups with a larger, louder concept of sound.  These extra players enable us to expose our young people to all eras of music, a broader palate of technique, strength, color.  Second, sometimes a piece of music calls for an instrument we don’t have in residence at the school, like harp, but the music provides an educational opportunity to make it worth it.  Enough said.  Third, and this is really the thing:  Intermingling a few older players with more experience into a youthful group instantly makes the rest of the players better.  Notice I didn’t say makes the orchestra better.  I said it makes the players better.  It’s an important distinction.  Students that normally would forget to have a pencil in rehearsal suddenly always have one.  Violinists sit a little straighter, react a little more quickly.  Horn players mimic the seasoned behavior of their stand partner.  I remember when I was a teenager the first time I sat down and played a two-piano piece with my teacher. Wow. I remember the place, the time of day, what the piano was like, the red carpet on the floor of the piano studio.  I could INSTANTLY play 10 times better than I could have 5 minutes before.  I knew at that moment what true musical energy was and that I’d never given it before then.  I was a better player.

Our orchestra continues in the rich tradition of music festivals such as Marlborough and Aspen.  In the Aspen orchestra the faculty actually sit in the principal seats and the students fill out the sections.  We tend to do it in reverse, adding a violinist at the back, a horn player sitting there to assist if the student doesn’t budget the energy quite right, an extra percussion player helping to coordinate the always-complicated percussion player choreography.  But it doesn’t matter, the result is the same.  Our students, like the students at Aspen and Marlborough make months of progress in one weekend.  It’s like the musical fast track.  And at the same time we get to enjoy the music.  It’s Beethoven 7 this weekend.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

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Meet the professor. November 4.

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nanette Ford  |  October 18, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Doug, I love your ability to capture these events for us parents… You bring me right in. Your brilliance, enthos, and love of teaching shine through your writings. Thank you for taking your precious time to reflect your colorful ,humerous and profound perspective of IAA

  • 2. paladinlori  |  October 19, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    We loved the concert. We were so impressed with the level of musicianship of all of the young people involved. We also loved seing the smiles on the students’ faces as they played. You could tell they felt a great sense of accomplishment (as they should have). Thanks for a wonderful weekend!

    Lor & Craig Schweers

  • 3. e.v.lowi  |  October 24, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I agree, it doesn’t get much better! We are in awe and still talking about this fantastic performance. Thanks for a wonderful weekend!


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October 2008


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