November 4, 2011

Youth Orchestra Prepares for Sunday’s Concert

Every September, the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra holds its weekend retreat at the Rotary Sunshine Campus in Rush, N.Y. RPYO parent Dr. Thomas Ball from LeRoy agreed to serve as camp doctor this year.

Staying at the camp for two nights, he observed the retreat’s rehearsals in preparation for the RPYO’s November 6th concert at Performance Hall at Hochstein, with several shared meals, relaxing activities, and an army of dedicated parent volunteers. A few days later, Dr. Ball shared with us these reflections for our RPYO student musicians and families.

To read more about this Sunday's concert, click here.

--Susan Basu, RPYO Manager

by Dr. Thomas Ball

We live in a time of uncommon privilege.  Yet privilege can seem so common.

"How much trouble can they be?" my wife prodded. The coordinator for the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's annual retreat was looking for weekend medical coverage. As the parent meeting proceeded, we shifted uncomfortably on the cafeteria's fold-out benches. My wife nudged me gently and offered to be the nurse.

A few weeks later I pulled up the curved entrance to Rotary Sunshine Campus in Rush, NY. We registered and set up my violinist younger daughter in her cabin after dropping off her violin at the lodge before the evening rehearsal. The next morning I awoke bright and early to the clanging of cymbals and some discordant brassy squeals, courtesy of the percussion section. The RPO mentors were introduced after breakfast and took the students for sectional rehearsals.

I retired to my room, which was pretty posh by camp standards, complete with private shower, my choice of three sturdy wooden bunks and even a framed still life of flowers. After organizing the medical supplies I had brought, I discovered that classical music campers are a careful lot. Only one “patient” came to my door. Here was a chance to prove my worth. He leaned forward on his chair and pointed out a ribbon of congealed blood, which had trickled down his shin from a scratched mosquito bite. I rummaged through my bag and found the Epi-Pen, the splint, and even the defibrillator. But no Band-Aid! Like a good sport, my patient took the offered paper towel, wiped off the blood, and thanked me just the same.  It's all too easy to take the common things for granted.

That evening I set down my folding chair outside the barn door to listen to rehearsal with Dr. Harman. I will never forget hearing the trumpets opening Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition when my older oboist daughter was in the RPYO six years ago. Hearing such amazing music in the open air made it even more special. The music this night was no less captivating. I imagined the deer and other forest creatures pressing in to listen at the edge of the field as they might for Snow White serenading The Seven Dwarfs.

Mussorgsky again gave me chills with Night on Bald Mountain, and the finale of the Saint-Saëns Bacchanale made me want to lead a thundering charge into battle. The Latin-flavored piece—Danzón No. 2 by the Mexican composer Arturo Márquez— was difficult to sit through without dancing. "You are a big orchestra. You have a lot of power. Use that power only for good." Dr. Harman cautioned them.

The RPYO is clearly using its power for good. The great individual effort from the 105 student musicians of the orchestra, the ongoing teamwork on the part of the parents, and Dr. Harman's exceptional leadership and musicality are all focused on one shared goal: making wonderful music together.

I suppose we might all define privilege differently, but on this evening it was the opportunity to listen to the music of great composers being rehearsed by an extraordinary group of young musicians beneath a canopy of stars. Consider the opportunity you have to be part of such an outstanding orchestra. Having the faculties and the freedom to appreciate such beautiful sights and sounds as we shared on this weekend, and possessing the talent to perform at such a high level is not something to be taken for granted.

Prepare well, enjoy the performances, and above all, be grateful for this privilege.

Oh—and don't forget the Band-Aids.

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