Lessons of Note : Four Concerts Use Familiar Tunes to School Students in Ways of Music


The Orange County Youth Symphony's rendition of the opening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony elicited polite applause among the tough crowd of about 3,000 fifth-graders.

But when the theme from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" wafted through the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the youthful audience at Wednesday's concert quickly perked up and eyed their neighbors to see if they too recognized the familiar score.

Earlier in the day, about 250 children from Bonita Canyon Elementary in Irvine responded similarly when members of a brass quintet playfully performed theme songs from "The Addams Family," "Star Trek," "The Pink Panther" and "Pocahontas."

As part of a special event sponsored by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, about 10,200 students enjoyed the well-known sounds of film and television tunes, classical music and other offerings during four separate programs held across the county.

The Philharmonic Society has long offered a variety of music programs to Orange County youths, but Wednesday was the first time the nonprofit group scheduled four events on the same day.

Students at Paularino Elementary in Costa Mesa heard recordings of different instruments used in a symphony orchestra, while members of a local group, Brass Connection, showed children at Bonita Canyon Elementary how the trumpet, tuba, French horn and trombone are played.

The Orange County Youth Symphony performed two separate concerts for 6,000 fifth-graders at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and the Disneyland Band entertained second-graders at Valencia High in Placentia.

"This is fabulous," raved teacher John David King, who brought students from Covenant Christian School in Orange to one of the Orange County Youth Symphony concerts. "I love the fact that all the schools get to go out and hear this kind of music. With all the cutting back that's going on, it's wonderful that there's still opportunities to go out of the classroom and learn something."

The Orange County Philharmonic Society spends more than $400,000 annually on a variety of youth programs aimed at increasing musical interest and appreciation among school-age students. The organization, which offers its youth programs for free, reaches about 250,000 Orange County students at about 500 elementary and secondary schools each year.

Alfred Lang, a trumpet player who performed Wednesday at Bonita Canyon Elementary, said his brass quintet visits many schools whose instrumental music programs have been discontinued because of budget cuts.

"Some children have not had any exposure to instrumental music," he said. "This is their first chance to hear professional musicians."

After showing children how various brass instruments are played, Lang fielded questions for the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. One boy told Lang that he tried playing the trumpet but switched to the clarinet out of frustration.

"Why do the buttons always get stuck?" the boy asked.

Another student asked Lang if his group could play the theme to "Star Wars."

"We take requests, but we just don't perform them," Lang responded.

For the most part, the children attending Wednesday's concerts at the Orange County Performing Arts Center were well-behaved and attentive. Only a few students wriggled impatiently during the classical pieces, and students even applauded after the youth symphony warmed up by playing a few notes.

"It makes me want to play the drums," Jeff Bouissierre, 10, of Covenant Christian School, said after the performance. "I like it because the music is great and everyone minds their manners for a change."

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