Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sum of the Parts: Nick+Kids+Open Mind=MYO ≠ Avg B'ham YO

Comment by Robert Levine from the Engaging Art blog:

...orchestras are also instruments, and like instruments, they don't play themselves. When a Strad is played out of tune, it's not the Strad's fault. It didn't much matter what kind of violin Heifetz played, except perhaps to Heifetz. It's impossible for an orchestra to play at its best for a bad conductor. It's just impossible. And it's almost as hard not to play well for a really good conductor...

I have seen a lot of youth orchestra rehearsals. Most of the time, a pile of good reading material is a must. Every once in awhile I sense something special that will keep drawing my attention back to the rehearsal and the magazines slide unnoticed off my lap.

The first time I was aware of an invisible connection between the conductor and the students, where he was drawing more from the youth orchestra than the sum of its parts, was with Bob Frelly, who conducted All-State Festival Orchestra when it was in Florence. ASFA's 'mother mafia' speculated about how we could draw someone like that to Birmingham.

The second time was with Benjamin Zander and the National Festival Orchestra in New York City. I suspected that the National Festival Orchestra was going to be a vanity ensemble--and it partially was. But there were some very talented kids (Sarah Chang's brother, for one) and Mr. Zander called in students from all over New England to fill in the weak areas. Watching these strangers rehearse in cramped quarters, that magic thread was almost physically visible as Mr. Zander danced among the stands and knit the disparate strands into a coherent fabric.

Since they were playing Shostakovitch's 5th, Mid-America Productions packed Carnegie Hall with Russian immigrants recruited from Manhattan's senior centers. Before the applause had died on the Shostakovitch, many of these ringers got up to leave. Mr. Zander commented, "Isn't amazing that these young people played together for the first time 3 days ago?" I saw the stunned look on the faces of those departing around me. They all sat back down for the rest of the concert.

In Nick Lacanski's case, I picked up a hint of that connection at the November 2006 AYS concert. But I didn't see any of January's concert and I'd never seen AYS rehearse with Nick. When I watched AYS rehearse with the Showcase soloists at Boutwell, I was blown away. Nick was communicating with everyone on stage at almost a psychic level and it was exciting to watch. I couldn't believe I didn't know about this guy before. And I was sad that Molly hadn't gotten to play with him.

Every child in the world deserves to play music with someone who can give them that kind of experience. For those that are exposed to it, it undoubtedly changes the way they feel about music, classical music in particular, and that can only be a good thing.

MYO and CYO would not be imaginable without Nick. Our organization, Birmingham, and Alabama need to find more like him.

No comments: