This week the KSO is performing a series of concerts for area school children. Young People's Concerts, or, YPC's for short, have a very special place in my heart. I love kids and I love teaching kids about music. Before they attend a YPC, most of the students have been working with a docent and have had some symphony musicians visit their classroom. The kids learn about the repertoire in advance. There are CD's for the music teachers to play for the students and sample lesson plans. The symphony members visit the class to give the kids an up-close preview of what they will hear at the concert. Before I came to Knoxville I had performed in numerous young people's concerts in other cities. I think that of all the places I've played, Knoxville has the best educational concerts. The KSO's education department and our area music teachers do a fantastic job preparing the students for the concert. The students are familiar with the music they will hear and are eagerly anticipating their favorites. They participate and are engaged. They know the basics of audience etiquette and are a joy to play for.
Aside from the kids, I love YPC's because people in the orchestra let their hair down. Not to say that the playing is sloppy, it's just that it's hard to be completely serious when you're wearing a fake mustache. Or listening to Principal Trombonist Sam Chen "talk" to long-deceased Richard Wagner on his cell phone. Or when you're keeping one eye on your music and the other on the real live donkey and praying that when it gets scared and runs off-stage it decides to run AWAY from you. People smile during YPC's. We laugh. We wear costumes that we would never be caught dead in otherwise. We dance the macarena and the can-can. And it's all in the name of education. How can you beat that?