Monday, November 24, 2008

Side by side

The KSO has been doing side by side concerts with various area high schools for quite a few seasons. A side by side is a program that pairs professional musicians with high school students. We are able to help with the nuts and bolts of playing an instrument such as fingerings, bowings, sound production, etc, and we are also able to do some mentoring to students who might choose to make music their career. In the past the side by side concerts have consisted of one or two rehearsals followed by a concert.

Last year my quartet did a side by side with the orchestra from Austin East. I admit I panicked a bit when I got the music. There were quite a few pieces and the music was enough like jazz to make me sweat. I like to listen to jazz and I have great admiration for those who play jazz. Playing jazz is not my forte. There were directions in the music I had never seen before, such as “bow slap.” The AEHS orchestra had been rehearsing for awhile but we only had a few rehearsals with them to put the concert together. In the end, though, the kids were flexible, Jonathan East who directs the orchestra was very laid back, I expanded my musical comfort zone and the concert came off fine.

This season the KSO is partnering with Austin East High School for an extended side by side program. For several months, five string musicians from the KSO have attended a rehearsal once a week at AEHS. Working with the students on a long term basis has allowed the musicians from the KSO to forge a stronger connection with the students. The students enrolled in orchestra at AEHS are not in the class for an easy A. They want to be there. There are times when there are not enough materials, such as instruments, for every student to have their own. They take turns or they improvise, using a violin bow to play the cello when a cello bow is not available. They make it work. Their hard work has paid off. Several students have been able to pursue college opportunities that may not have been available or affordable to them without the skills they gained through their work with Jonathan East and the AEHS orchestral program.

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