This week, the VYO visited the Saint Albans Town elementary and middle school. During these visits that we call school tours, our primary goal is to share music with the students; specifically, to inspire as many students as possible to play instruments and to participate in their school’s music programs. At the St. Albans school, we taught the students about our instruments and gave music lessons. The day ended with a full VYO concert.
During the morning, we visited first to seventh grade classrooms in small groups, arranged to demonstrate the various instrument “families”. My group included clarinet, oboe, bassoon and flute. These sessions were especially fun for me because many of the kids hadn’t seen or heard an oboe before. As I entered one of the classrooms, a first-grade boy looked up at me and exclaimed, “Boy, that sure is a funny looking instrument.” I showed the class how this “funny” instrument could produce beautiful sounds… the excited chattering in the room when I played an excerpt of a Hindemith sonata was great! Taking questions from the students at the end of the session was the most fun with younger students. The questions ranged from logical (“How long have you played your instruments?”) to slightly offbeat (“Which of your instruments is oldest?”) to completely obscure (“Do you have your driver’s license?”). I love the unpredictability of these classroom visits!
In the afternoon, the entire school gathered in the gym to hear the VYO present a preview of music from our Spring Concert; we played Gershwin’s An American in Paris and the Carmen Suite by Bizet. This was great practice for our upcoming concert and it helped place a fresh perspective on our music. Mr. Peters explained many musical concepts to the students, including the role of the conductor, composition techniques, and dynamics. As I listened to him describe the story behind An American in Paris, I was reminded to play with emotion rather than being overly concerned with correct notes and rhythms. I wanted the students to feel the weight and beauty of each note we played.
The day consistently reflected my own journey in music. Although I can’t remember if my elementary school ever hosted a youth music ensemble, I distinctly remember being inspired by older oboists. When I was in fourth grade, I played in my private instructor’s annual recital for the first time. I remember being awestruck by the skill with which the high school musicians played. I thought they played at a level I could never achieve. After the recital, some of these older musicians made a point to compliment my playing. They told me that I could become an amazing oboist someday. I’m not sure that I believed them at the time, but I have never forgotten those kind words. There’s just something special and terribly important about older musicians mentoring younger musicians.
I hope that our school visit will have a lasting effect on the students we met on Wednesday. This visit gave us all a valuable opportunity to share our passion for music. I hope the kids enjoyed it as much as we did.
–April Burbank (Photo: April Burbank)