Crescendo to Children’s Studies
It was just about standing-room only at the Charles E. Probst Center for Performing Arts on Friday morning. They had come by the busloads to hear a concert, and they filled the 1,800-seat hall. They were squirming. They were excitable.
They were all 8-years-old.
The concert by the New West Symphony was the highlight of the year’s concentrated study of orchestral music by the third-graders of the Conejo Valley Unified School District.
Over the past few months, these kids have learned all about the makings of symphonic music, the instrument sections in an orchestra, the moods evoked. They have learned to recognize certain works, learned the names of famous composers. They have even been instructed in concert hall etiquette, which puts them far ahead of many adults.
They came to show off their knowledge and listen to the New West Symphony’s “Symphonic Adventures” program, in which exuberant Conductor Boris Brott regaled them with questions and musical answers at every pause.
What’s even better, these youngsters saw for themselves just where an interest in music might lead: Playing alongside the New West orchestra for the last piece on the program were student musicians picked in a special audition just for the privilege of performing with the professionals.
“This kind of experience can change a child’s life,” Brott said of the showcase. “It can change the way they listen to music, or it could inspire them to study music. To me, these are the most important concerts I give.”
It was a pretty important concert for the young junior and senior high school musicians, too. Tonight the students, including several soloists, will perform with the New West Symphony in “Stars of Tomorrow,” a public concert hosted by the Discovery Artists Committee. The concert begins at 8 p.m. at the Probst center.
“We wanted to bring them together with the understanding that they’d play with us,” says Cassandra Petrovich, symphony general manager.
The 24 students were selected in special auditions from youth symphonies around the county. The idea was to let the young musicians get a feel for what the life of a professional is like.
On Friday, dressed in concert black, the young musicians tried to relax backstage between shows. Since they were performing only in the last concerto, they had plenty of time to be nervous.
All said they were excited and honored to have been chosen for this program. The only complaint? “I wish we had more time with them,” said clarinetist Terran Olson, 17, a senior at Villa Nova High School in Ojai. “We’ve only been rehearsing this one piece.”
“Yeah,” agreed Danny Black, 16, a junior at Ventura High School who plays the flute and the piccolo. “It’s the first time I’ve really played with a full symphony. I’d like to do more pieces with them.”
“They’re not really giving you tips, but you get to hear how they play,” says violinist Jane Kim, 16, a junior at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard. “We get to hear what really good players sound like, and it gives you ideas.”
And if there is any question about whether such programs as this work, just talk to Jon Marshall, 15, a sophomore at Thousand Oaks High School. Standing backstage in his performance tuxedo, he credits an elementary school orchestral music assembly for turning him on to his instrument of choice: the bass trombone.
“These guys get to listen to a whole symphony,” he says of the children in the audience. He shrugs and smiles, adding: “It’s a good thing. Because you never know where it’ll lead.”
Tickets for the “Stars of Tomorrow” concert are still available. Only balcony seats remain, $10. Call (805) 449-2787 for more information. The Civic Arts Plaza is at 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks.