As I prepare for my first Family Concert – and corresponding 5th Grade Concerts – with the Longmont Symphony, there are several questions that I find myself grappling with: What are my goals in presenting a live symphonic performance to every 5th grader in the SVVSD? What is the best way to engage young listeners? And how do we attract families to all of our performances?
In 1958, as the brand new music director of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein brought the New York Philharmonic’s “Young People’s Concerts” to a new level. These concerts not only attracted enough families with young children to fill the seats of Carnegie Hall, but they were also broadcast across the nation and to 40 different countries. These performances aimed to educate young listeners; the diverse topics included uncovering the hidden meaning of music, discovering what sonata form is, and celebrating Igor Stravinsky’s birthday. These lectures to children are filled with so much useful information that, to this day, I still find myself watching some of these videos to help me understand various musical issues.
For all of the amazing qualities that these videos have, I had to ask myself if this format is the right one for young families in Longmont. I found that my goal was not for children to come away with specific answers to musical questions, but rather to engage young people such that, at a minimum, they have fun, and that hopefully, they fall in love with music and say to themselves, “That seems cool, I want to do that!”
On the first half of our program, we will be featuring young musicians performing with, and alongside the musicians of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra. Alisa Johnson, winner of our Young Artist Competition, will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, and the young musicians of the Longmont Youth Symphony will be joining us in a performance of the Finale of Sibelius’s Second Symphony. By sharing the stage with these young musicians, I hope that every single child in the audience will be saying to themselves – “I can do this, too!”
If the first half of our program is geared towards our young audience members seeing other children having fun with music, the second half of our program is all about catching the “music bug.” Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is such a fun and witty piece of music, that I know that every audience member, regardless of age, will have a visceral understanding of the music, even if they haven’t been taught its specific meaning of form.
I am looking forward to welcoming so many young people into our hall and onto our stage – I hope to see you there!