Having written recently about my love of student recitals, I have to mention that we went to a Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra concert yesterday.  In my limited, and admittedly biased opinion, they are far and away the best student orchestra in the area.  Not perfect:  Depending on whose philosophy happens to be strongest at the time, the emphasis is sometimes more on education than on making music. As most of you know, I strongly believe that real learning more often takes place in an atmosphere of "let's do something wonderful and important together" than in a "Me Teacher, You Student" situation.

Be that as it may, the FSYO is the best game in town for a young person who wants to play good orchestral repertoire, and it's good listening, too. The only reason we don't attend more of their concerts is that there are so many other great things to do in life.

But we went yesterday, because it was the last concert of the season, and we hadn't been to one yet this year.  More than that, we went because the concert included three commissioned pieces, one of which (Mountain Air and Dance) was written by our friend John Dupuis.  Unfortunately, John's composition was for the Prelude Orchestra (third from the top of the four orchestras, one above the strings-only group of beginnners), which for various complicated reasons had not had enough time to practice it.  It was a bit of a stretch for them.  Still, there was a gorgeous melody in the middle, and in the rest I could detect an interesting piece that reminded me of why I fell in love with John's Atlantis many years ago.  (Atlantis, which was written with a particular group of FSYO musicians in mind, was recorded by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and used by Universal Studios for the grand opening of their Islands of Adventure theme park.)

The Prelude Orchestra was interesting to hear.  (They did much better with their other pieces).  My experience with student orchestras has been that the winds are, as a section, better than the strings.  For one thing, the competition is more fierce (fewer positions); for another, good orchestral music tends to have very hard string parts.  But this time the situation was reversed, probably because the strings had a few really good players, and in the winds there's no place for a less confident player to hide.  Playing tentatively is a major mistake for an oboe or a trumpet, and these kids haven't yet learned to "sin boldly."  There was a lovely oboe solo in Edelweiss, however.  (Hmm, I did manage to work a flower into this post after all.)

The Philharmonia Orchestra's commissioned piece (Stephen Foster Song-Suite) was by Joe Kreines.  He may be world famous, but "Mr. Kreines" will always be remembered in our family as the person who came in occasionally to enliven band practice, and who could get more out of an ensemble that any other conductor.  He still can, as today's concert proved.

We don't know the composer of the Symphonic Orchestra's new work (Sojourn), Robert J. Brownlow, but I suppose two out of three is pretty good!  His work matched the ability of the orchestra best of all, I think.  The Symphonic Orchestra itself has been better.  Don't get me wrong—it was still very good, just not up to the standards of a few years ago, when it was absolutely stunning.

Not that I'm prejudiced in this matter or anything—but not one of the orchestras had a decent A to tune to.  I'm a bit particular when in comes to oboes.  Their solos were fine; it was just the A's.  A 440, 460, 415...whatever!

Being involved with student musical groups for so many years, it was impossible for us not to notice the frequent coorespondence between musical and general academic ability, today's Frazz comic—in which Caulfield asserts that we need arts education so the bottom half of the math class can do something for a living—to the contrary.  This year's FSYO graduates are no exception.  Take the assistant principal cellist of the Symphonic, for example.  Valdictorian of his high school, going off to Harvard to major in biochemical sciences, and scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT (on his first try, even).  Hmm, only assistant principal cellist?  The slacker!  Oh, wait, the principal is taking her cello to the Eastman School of Music next year, so I guess the competition was a bit stiff.  She, by the way, is graduating with a mere 4.7 weighted GPA....  C'mon folks, invest a little time and money (okay, maybe a lot of time and money) in your children's musical education.  It'll be great for their brains!

All in all, the concert was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and we even ran into some friends we hadn't seen in ages. 
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 7, 2007 at 7:35 am | Edit
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