Which instrument in the orchestra plays the highest note? When that question was posed to elementary students at the Montessori School of Tustin recently, little hands shot into the air and guesses were offered: Tuba? Cymbal? Harmonica?
To illustrate the correct answer, Mary Palchak displayed a piccolo and played a familiar tune--"Popeye the Sailor Man.” Palchak, principal flutist with the Capistrano Chamber Players, Garden Grove Symphony and Rio Hondo Symphony, went on to demonstrate her gold-plated C flute and her alto flute to the assembled 5 to 10 year olds.
Monday’s demonstration was part of a program by the Capistrano Chamber Players to introduce youngsters to orchestral instruments. Palchak’s was the second in a series spotlighting the different families of instruments. The first was a percussion demonstration by Michael Rydzynski, who holds a doctorate in percussion and is a local music critic. The next offering in the series, which organizers hope will be an ongoing one, has yet to be scheduled.
“The idea is that since the children aren’t getting exposure to (classical music) in very many places, we need to bring the symphony players to the classroom,” explained Carolyn Broe, director of the chamber ensemble. “That’s really what the series is all about--exposure to classical and jazz music. . . . They get a steady diet of rock already.”
Broe is presenting the fledgling series in the Montessori school, which she owns with her husband. Eventually, however, she wants to expand the program to public schools.
“I’m really dedicated to teaching young people about music,” said Broe, a violist and music teacher. “I believe in very early exposure to music in children, at birth and even before birth.”
Broe started Monday’s half-hour program by giving a general introduction to the families of orchestral instruments. Palchak then took over, displaying the instruments in the flute family and playing popular and classical selections.
At one point, she told the story behind Debussy’s “Syrinx"--of the nymph who spurned the god Pan’s advances and was turned into a bed of reeds, from which Pan made the panpipe. Palchak then played the piece.
“Some of them seemed to be quite captivated. They were listening very seriously,” Palchak said. “I noticed some of them were staring at my fingers. They seemed to be fascinated.”
Palchak grew up in a musical family and wanted to learn the clarinet, but was told by her mother, “Little girls don’t play the clarinet. They play the flute.”
But not all children get the same kind of musical foundation, which is why she is enthusiastic about the “Introduction to the Orchestra” series. “I think this is a great program. It gives kids a chance to see the instruments up close and (to see them) played up close.”
Young children, Broe said, don’t respond well when they are simply told about music. “When they hear it and see it, it becomes real.”
Programs in the “Introduction to the Orchestra” series are open to the public. For information, call the Montessori School of Tustin, 1776 Nisson Road, at (714) 730-1776.