The Central Ohio Symphony welcomed almost 800 fourth-graders from Delaware County to an interactive concert Tuesday in OWU’s David S. Gray Chapel.
John Deliman was the guest conductor, and Kristen Basore served as host and song leader. It seems safe to say that Gray Chapel has never seen this much excitement before. Not only was this a welcome field trip for the kids, but it was also the culmination of many weeks and months of preparation.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Ohio Arts Council and a remarkable partnership between the Symphony and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, they had learned a number of vocal and instrumental pieces and were already familiar with the words and tunes.
Hundreds brought their recorders and played along while the orchestra performed. The project has clearly delineated goals and learning objectives.
First, the kids were introduced to the sections of the orchestra — the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Then, they learned about proper tuning. “The orchestra tunes to the oboe,” Kristen Basore explained. After the introduction, ten pieces were on the program, representing a small sample of the entire repertoire.
Some were songs with words such as “Come to Play,” the old Shaker song “Tis a Gift to Be Simple,” “To Make Words Sing,” and “I Bought Me a Cat.” Curious parents can find them sung on YouTube if they type in “Carnegie” and the title of the song. There are also a teacher’s guide and a student’s guide on the Internet.
After this first round, the students learned that musical instruments too can play a melody and tell a story – songs without words. Examples were Dvořák’s “Symphony from the New World” and Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird.” Of course, the Symphony played only excerpts, not the entire works.
Then, 16-year-old Hayes High School sophomore Adryán Rojas played the famous “Chaconne” on the violin, accompanied by the full orchestra. The selection was his own, his father explained in an a subsequent interview.
It is immaterial if the “Chaconne” is indeed by Vitali or not. What matters is that Adryán Rojas played it with emotional depth and technical skill. He is a talented musician whose award-winning quartet has already performed in a number of national competitions. The young violinist is seriously contemplating a career in music and hopes to attend a music conservatory after he graduates from high school.
All the kids had great fun at the concert. Not one looked distracted or bored. Not only were they entertained, they also learned a lot about orchestras and classical music. They may forget names like Vitali and Beethoven, Dvořák and Stravinsky again, but what they won’t forget is the power of music and how it can unite even disparate people and build community.
The last song, sung by everyone in Spanish and English, was the jazzy and rhythmically inspiring “Oye.” “I am all alone,” the song begins, “in tears and in the dark.” But others call out to her and reach out to him, ready to embrace the lost child and lift it up. With music, no one is alone.
Music brings together and unites; it also gives hope and empowers. That is an experience the fourth-graders will remember.
Thanks are due to Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and the Ohio Arts Council for funding the project. Thanks also go to the various school districts in Delaware County that supported the initiative and paid a small fee to attend.
Mostly, however, the concert’s success was the result of the enthusiasm of the many active participants, especially the kids themselves who sang their heart out. Kristen Basore’s strong leadership and beautiful voice deserve special recognition. Her job may have been the most demanding of them all, but as a professional studio teacher of piano, voice, and acting she handled it with grace.
She is scheduled to be back for the Symphony’s “Benefit in the Barn” concert later this summer. Events of this nature inspire not only the children, impacting their future in unknown and immeasurable ways, they also enrich families, communities, and society as a whole.
As Lyndon B. Johnson said in his remarks when he signed into law the bill to create the NEA and NEH in 1965, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage.” Without the vision and mission that the arts, including music, provide, the people perish and will be condemned to loneliness, tears, and darkness.
There is no greater gift we can give to our children than the arts because, as Johnson stated, empires come and go, but the arts abide.
Thomas K. Wolber, Ph.D., teaches foreign languages at Ohio Wesleyan University. He has an undergraduate degree in music from a German university, plays the piano, and is passionate about classical music. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.