Thursday, January 22, 2009

Side by Side in Maryville

Last night the string players of the KSO had our first side-by-side rehearsal with Maryville High School. The idea behind a side-by-side is to pair up professional musicians with students in a mentoring situation. The KSO currently has a long-term side-by-side program at Austin East High School where a quintet of string musicians attend their orchestra class once a week. The side-by-side at Maryville High School is different because the relationship is short-term (two rehearsals plus a concert), and more KSO players are involved.

Every time we go to Maryville High School, I'm shocked at how many students they have in their orchestra program. The room was full. Not only that, but our concert is split in two parts so that more students can participate. We rehearsed two pieces, took a break while the first group of students left and then finished up the rehearsal with the second group. These days it is unusual for schools to offer an orchestra program and very unusual for there to be as much student participation as there is in Maryville.

My favorite aspect of the side-by-side program is that when improvements are made they are very noticeable. In the day-to-day rehearsal of the KSO there is the usual tweaking of dynamics, tuning of chords, smoothing out transitions, etc, but unless we “crash and burn” (which doesn't happen often, thankfully) our first reading of a piece is generally not radically different than the eventual performance. There wasn't much crashing and burning taking place last night, although there were a few things that were a little rough around the edges. The students responded well to instruction from Lucas as well as from their KSO musician stand-partners. I was especially impressed by the wind, brass, and percussion students. I don't think they normally play in the orchestra and they all did a great job. I'm looking forward to our second rehearsal with them tonight.

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