Orchestra Fun for a Lifetime

On Sunday, I'm participating in University of Hartford's President's College Showcase 2010. Dean Aaron Flagg of the Hartt School is convening a panel to focus on the future of orchestras. (We start at 11:30am) He asked each of us to submit a written response to this question for publication in the program.


The orchestra field includes school, community, youth, collegiate, semi-professional, and fully professional orchestras. Describe your ideal future for the American Orchestra. What part of it do you think will actually take place? Why?

I was asked to further comment on these questions related to youth symphonies and university orchestras.


What is different about the young performers in youth orchestras today than 20 years ago? What experiences might higher education be surprised to realize youth orchestra members have and therefore want from a collegiate experience? How might colleges and the professional world adjust to maintain their long-term interest? Having advocated for funding at the county and state-level, what are some of the perceptions of the orchestra field in the public sector and how might or how are they impacting the future?

Here's what I wrote. If you're there please come say Hello!

D



Orchestra music is inherently a community created art form, yet it is dependent upon the excellence and dedication of each individual participant. Understanding and working with this duality is essential to successfully advancing orchestral music into the future. Inspiring individual musicians to commit themselves to enthusiastically pursuing the goals of the ensemble consistently results in the most successful orchestral experiences for musicians and audiences. Sustaining this enthusiasm in musicians over a lifetime, particularly professional musicians, is a challenge.

 

Enthusiasm is not hard to find in student musicians. And, we have clues as to how their youthful enthusiasm may be extended beyond their current experiences. The majority of students participating in youth orchestras today don't have the same school orchestra experiences their counterparts had twenty years ago. Unlike in the past, most are receiving their musical instruction through private teachers and spending much more time focused on individual repertoire. As a result, orchestral and chamber music repertoire is novel to them, as is the group experience of an ensemble. This is particularly true of string players whose parents started them in lessons at an early age without giving them an ensemble experience in their musically formative years.

 

Universities have the opportunity to tap this limited exposure to ensemble. It can actually be the source of ongoing excitement and growth in students. Framing the university music experience as a venture where each student is charged with growing their musical skills in order to prepare for playing repertoire alongside their peers and colleagues would communicate the value of the orchestra as a community project. Instead of viewing their progress as an individual concern, students would understand they are first and foremost contributing to something larger than themselves. We might even see the end of the senior recital.

 

In addition to focusing on the students' own discovery and embrace of orchestral repertoire, universities have the opportunity to teach them how to share their passion for the repertoire with their wider community. There is little doubt students will continue to come out of college with the musical skills to perform amazing orchestral repertoire. But will universities commit to giving them the skills they need to share their love of the music with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers?

 

Twenty years from now our nation's college, community, and professional orchestras will have to relate to their communities dynamically to be valued widely. Giving today's student musicians the skills to lead that dynamism will be good for them, good for orchestras, and good for our nation.

September 17, 2010 7:56 AM | | Comments (0)

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dog Days published on September 17, 2010 7:56 AM.

Chasing the Biggest Racers of the Year was the previous entry in this blog.

The Blog Posting I Don't Need to Write is the next entry in this blog.

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