Last night I had the great fortune to be a part of a fine ensemble of musicians performing our very first Jazz OnStage: part of the OnStage series of free chamber music concerts at the Nashville Symphony.
The OnStage series has been a part of the Nashville Symphony’s community engagement programming for many years now, and I’ve written about these programs in a number of previous posts here on Off The Podium. The concept of the program is simple: on selected weeknights throughout the season, Nashville Symphony musicians present an early evening chamber music concert in which the audience is seated on the stage with the musicians, and the program includes the opportunity for dialogue between the musicians and the audience.
My grandfather died nearly 22 years ago. At that time I was living near New York City, and I drove to his memorial service at a church in Eastern Pennsylvania. More than two decades later, I don’t remember too many things from that experience, unfortunately – my wife and I had a newborn baby, and we had a lot of things on our minds at the time. I do, however, have two strong memories from that day.
The first memory is that it occurred on the day of a solar eclipse, and I remember standing out in the church parking lot after the service and looking at a shadow of the eclipse in progress on a piece of paper with my uncle, who commented on how much Grandpa (a scientist and a doctor) would have loved the eclipse, and no doubt would have prepared a much better way to observe it.
The other memory, which is stronger, and the first thing I remember when I think about that day, is standing in the pew during the service singing A Mighty Fortress is Our God along with everyone else there, and my eyes filling with tears as I sang it. I was told that day (by someone, I don’t remember who now) that this was my grandfather’s favorite hymn.
I’m very pleased to share the news here that this year’s Curb Concerto Competition was a great success, and featured a high level of playing on the parts of the participants. Students ages 14 to 18 competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and the chance to perform with the Nashville Symphony in our annual competition, held this year on March 5 & 6 here at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. All told, this year’s competition included 16 string, brass, and piano students, each of whom performed their auditions on the stage of Laura Turner Hall.
To his 18th century contemporaries, Georg Philipp Telemann was the most famous, influential, and highly-regarded German musician of the day. Four years older than his friends J.S. Bach and Händel – both of whose reputations have now eclipsed his – Telemann was more prolific than either, wrote sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental music in virtually every genre, published on a nearly unprecedented scale, and did more than any other musician of his time to break down barriers that kept music a separate and elite component of civic, court, and church ceremony to elevate the role of music in the life of the middle class.
The last week has been a flurry of music and activity – the symphony was in the hall rehearsing Rossini, Brahms, and Strauss on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for three performances: our annual High School Young People’s Concert on Friday morning, and Classical Series concerts on Friday and Saturday night. Also on Saturday, we held the first round of our annual Curb Concerto Competition – sixteen teenage instrumentalists competed for cash prizes and the chance to perform a concerto movement with the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall! – and on Sunday afternoon we held the competition’s finals. This coming Saturday is our first ever auditions for our new program Accelerando. It’s been a very busy time of year for the Education staff at the Nashville Symphony!
After the final round of the competition was over on Sunday, after photos had been taken and I said goodbye to the finalists and their families, I dashed off a quick email to the symphony’s publicist with details for the press release and then made my way across town to West End United Methodist Church for a special late afternoon concert.
When I read education articles or discussions of education practices on the internet, a theme that I constantly encounter is classroom management and discipline. Current trends in behavior modification theories and practices have promoted a widespread use of reward systems for social (as opposed to anti-social) behavior that is at odds with my own beliefs about education.
In 1998, our four-year old son was enrolled in a preschool program, and we learned from him one afternoon that at his (church sponsored) preschool they were paying the children for good behavior in play money and on Fridays, allowing the children who had accumulated some “cash” to spend it on toys or candy from the “store”.
My wife and I were shocked at what I still regard as a deeply cynical approach to the education of young children, and withdrew our son from that program immediately.