It’s no secret that I am a trumpeter. It’s also no secret that I am an advocate for music education, especially early-childhood music education.
My trip to the Colorado Symphony (CSO) this weekend made me wonder if we might in fact be in a period where instrumental/orchestral/symphonic music could be making something of a come-back.
When I was a senior in high school and in my second year serving as Drum Major of The Marching Scots, our band was somewhere between 70 and 80 students, including the pit (aka, “front ensemble”) and guard (aka, “color guard”). I remember going back for the first homecoming after we graduated, just to see what the marching band field show was like. It was dismal. Not their performance, but their headcount, which had dwindled to maybe 20 or 30 total.
So what happened?
About the time my class was starting high school, our school district cut the 5th grade band/orchestra program. Without that, I know from personal experience that kids were not only encouraged away from band and orchestra in middle school, they were even directly discouraged from signing up for those classes. I was specifically told that P.E. and foreign language classes were required and that it would not be possible to enroll in those classes and band. Funny enough, there was a way because I ended up doing it all.
Without the 5th grade program to introduce kids to instruments, they certainly wouldn’t have a motivation to challenge the middle school counselors’ detour and suddenly start playing an instrument they had never seen or maybe even heard before. Why would they?
As part of my Performance Music Minor in college, I was required to attend a certain number of symphony concerts per semester. No need to twist my arm! I would often take my mom along (a former clarinetist), since we both share a deep love for a live symphony orchestra. Back then, I took note that the concert hall was usually pretty empty.
The years have flown by and our Colorado Symphony has made a concerted effort – see what I did there? – to expand the programming to include a healthy amount of Pops Series performances, as well as increase advertising and outreach to a younger generation of attendees.
Some of my CSO Pop Concert favorites:
- The music of Pink Floyd
- The music of Led Zeppelin
- Idina Menzel & Marvin Hamlisch with the CSO
- Brandi Carlile with the CSO
- Bugs Bunny at the Symphony
- The Wizard of Oz in concert
- A Nightmare Before Christmas in concert
- Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban in concert
- Distant Worlds: Music from FINAL FANTASY
- Video Games Live
While these concerts have become more and more packed over the years, the Masterwork Series performances (traditional “classical” music) have only moderately increased their attendance in my past observations.
But last Saturday night was something different! We were there to hear The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz, and The Pines of Rome by Respighi, and as we took our seats and the attendees filed in, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the house was nearly full! Not only was it full, but the average age seemed to be dramatically lower than what I’m used to. Why were there so many, considering the repertoire for the night was not pop? Sure, The Pines of Rome had a boost in popularity thanks to Fantasia 2000, but that was almost two decades ago now.
Is there a growing appreciation for symphonic music happening then? Is this unique to Denver? Gosh, I sure hope it’s a widespread, renewed cultural excitement for live symphony. I would love for that to be the case!
Take a Listen
Imagine the excitement of the brass, the drums, the cymbals, the full force of the symphony coming at you as the final movement of The Pines of Rome, “The Pines of the Appian Way” fills the concert hall! All the chills!
Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra
Let’s keep the momentum going!
If you would like to help bring orchestral music to young children in the Denver-Metro area, please consider a tax-deductible donation to Inside the Orchestra. This is a great organization that helps fill the void of the missing 5th grade program.
I am the current VP on the Board of Directors and our orchestra brings a unique, engaging experience to tots and elementary school children by surrounding them with the musicians and the conductor (literally putting the kids inside the orchestra), performing abbreviated pieces to captivate their attention and energy, and filling them with the joy and excitement of the music and the instruments.
I intend to talk lots more about Inside the Orchestra in future blog posts, but in the meantime you can ask questions in the comments below!
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