These last couple of months at the symphony, getting to know some more people, getting the sense of being a part of a dynamic organization, and getting to experience new musical moments, has been almost surreal. There are times when I think to myself “Wow – I can’t believe I am here doing this.”
This week’s musical moment came on Wednesday afternoon when I helped out at one of the ESO’s Educational Concerts. I wondered what the organization of this type of event entailed given that there were over one thousand 4th, 5th and 6th graders scheduled to attend the morning and afternoon sessions. Well, the Winspear has an amazing staff that organizes these events. As the school buses started rolling in, my job was to take a school to the correct usher so they could get seated efficiently. I was given a map of the Hall with coding to let us know where to take each of the schools coming in.
One musical moment came when one of the largest groups arrived and were lead to their section. One of the teachers stayed behind for a few moments and told me how for many of the students, this would be their first ever concert. She also mentioned how many of them would not even be able to afford to attend a concert normally and so were very excited to be able to come to this educational concert. Her eyes beaming, she explained how many of them spent some time even planning what to dress up in for coming to the Winspear Centre. It was very touching to know that the ESO and Winspear are touching young lives in this way and very moving to be a part of it – even in a small way.
Once the students were seated, I sat myself in the Upper Circle to take in the concert. I couldn’t imagine how over 1,000 young students would be able to sit still long enough to experience this concert, but I was eager to see how it would all work!
It was delightful to observe the students and their lively chatter and communication as the orchestra warmed up. As the lights dimmed, the chatter lowered a bit, but when our Resident Conductor Lucas Waldin entered the scene, he took control of the hall in a very effective way. He performed some introductions and thanked our sponsors and asked for applause. He then asked for even bigger applause for the orchestra. And then, he asked the students for an “enormous silence” and he got it! I’ve never seen so many young students be absolutely silent together. This was another musical moment as the orchestra prepared to begin.
The concert was designed around music from or inspired by the land and traditions of Alberta and began with a beautiful piece composed by Aaron Copeland – Rodeo. It was a fun, lively piece and led into a stunning program of Albertan composed music, aboriginal music and guest artists, and audience participation pieces as well. I personally conducted a piece, along with many others in the audience, as some played the recorder! A poem written by one of the students was also read by our Resident Composer Robert Rival during the performance of a piece of music he composed.
Throughout the performance, I marveled at the interaction between the performers and the audience and the level of engagement with the young audience that was achieved. Thank you ESO and Lucas Waldin for a great time of childlike enjoyment and a tremendous learning experience as well!
To learn more about the ESO’s educational programs, click on the following link: Education at the ESO