Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Field Trip: The Symphony

October 9, 2007

Today we were privileged to hear the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra perform its Young People's Concert, "Made in America." Each year the KSO performs two sets of educational concerts with a goal of introducing kids to classical music. The music is often familiar and always has a theme. The conductor explains and elaborates upon each piece, and the whole experience is enhanced with soloists, dancing, and audience participation. It is a wonderful experience, and today's show was sold out.

I am thrilled that the KSO has this introduction to classical music as part of its vision. To think that thousands of kids each year are being exposed in this way to the beauty of symphony thrills me. I grew up in a home that valued classical music. My mother had an extensive album collection and enrolled us in piano lessons at early ages (I was four). She often had music playing while she sewed or went about her day: Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven. But best of all, we had season tickets to the Smith Opera House, which usually featured either the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) or the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

That is one of my loveliest childhood memories. We would get quite dressed up to go to the symphony, and my mother would always wear one of her fur coats and my father would wear a tie. I believe this is the only time she wore a fur coat, and my father didn't wear ties too terribly often. Our seats were always in the balcony. The Smith Opera House (then the Geneva Theatre) is a gorgeous old theatre, one of the oldest operating in the U.S. The ceiling is blue velvet covered in twinkling stars. The seats were red plush and perfectly musty smelling. And in my mother's pockets were lemon drops. Like the fur coat, my mother seemed only to have lemon drops at the symphony.

And so the music would begin. It was all very exciting, and it was also way past my bedtime. Inevitably, I would end up curled in the aisle, asleep on my mother's fur coat. Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing like falling asleep on a bed of fur to the sound of violins under a velvet blue, twinkling sky. One cannot possibly have a more delicious introduction to orchestra than this.

In my teens, the symphony became an outdoor event. Our local community college had a wonderful outdoor amphitheater, which was the summer home of the RPO. I spent many memorable nights on the lawn of Finger Lakes Community College with picnics, blankets, and friends, soaking in the RPO. The 1812 Overture with fireworks on Independence Day rivals the fur coat and velvet sky.

I have carried the love of the symphony with me into adulthood, but it has been a quiet love. Alas, symphony tickets are expensive. But every year when the KSO Young People's Concert rolls around, I am determined that I will take each of the children to one symphony performance each year.

Somebody remind me, OK? It's a precious memory to have.

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