Before the Downbeat The Symphony NH Blog
It all started in the kitchen. I was talking with a couple of subscribers at a reception when they lamented the fact that more students didn’t attend our concerts. One thing led to another and we started exploring ways we might work together to change that. The subscribers were Bob Levine and his wife Rebecca Kadish, who live in Hollis and who’ve been enthusiastic supporters of the symphony for years.
That enthusiasm eventually took shape as a major contribution to Symphony NH, structured so as to ensure the provision – in perpetuity – of four free tickets for high school music students at each subscription concert. Bob and Rebecca wanted these tickets to go to students who have shown an interest and aptitude for music, either through band or chorus, by the time they reach high school. It made sense to me to set this up through the NHS North Tri-M Music Honor Society, a reliable source for identifying those students.
“Symphony NH is no longer just Nashua,” noted Rebecca and Bob. “We hope that we might inspire other music lovers to sponsor a similar program for their community and school.”
I reached out to NHS North Band Director, Kristin Olsen, who also plays horn with the Symphony. Her excitement matched that of the donors: “This is great for the students,” she said. “It’s important for them to see people in their community making music on a professional level, and I’m sure they’ll get a lot out of going to the concerts.”
Last week, an announcement at the Tri-M Music Honor Society induction ceremony made the gift public, and the program official. Olsen thanked Bob & Rebecca for their generosity and foresight in giving these students an opportunity to see professionals making music in their own community.
So the next time you’re at a Symphony NH concert and you notice a group of high school students in thrall to the music, remember that it took one couple who cared about the future of the art form to fill those seats, and that they’ll be full for as long as there’s a symphony here for us all to enjoy.
Thanks, Bob & Rebecca, for your generosity!
I’ve held this position at Symphony NH for six seasons, and it’s natural to reflect on the previous season as the curtain closes for the final time each spring. After all, it’s a milestone of sorts, the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. All of the hard work has come and gone, the events started and finished, the bow is tied, the… well, you get the idea.
As Eric has mentioned in other outlets, each of our concerts ended with a standing ovation, and the final one, in fact, was met with two. It’s been a banner season: the orchestra sounds better than ever, the chorus is outdoing themselves with every performance, and we’ve had the strongest ticket sales in the six years I’ve been with the organization. I truly believe that our brightest days are ahead of us.
“Synergy” is a term thrown around a lot; it’s one of those business buzzwords used to stir up a group of people, as in:Let’s “leverage” our strengths, “streamline” our efforts, and “think outside the box” to force a “paradigm shift” in our organization; a real “synergy” in our team is just around the corner! (picture a motivational speaker in a sharp suit, smoke clouds billowing from behind him)
In the case of Symphony NH, though, we’re in the middle of something that feels a lot like, well, synergy. People and efforts are moving into places where the end product is greater than the sum of the parts. I was part of a conference call a few days ago, and the facilitator used the phrase “stronger together” several times. Perfect, I thought. These two words perfectly sum up what’s been happening this year: stronger together.
SNH is entering a phase where people want to be involved. Whether it’s playing, singing, sponsoring, funding, or volunteering, there’s never been a better time to plug into what we’re doing. It’s a great feeling, and the plan is to take as many people along on this journey as we can. Join us, won’t you?
As foundations begin to make decisions about their funding choices for the coming year, I’m encouraged by the general trend: by and large, they seem to share what I call our “aspiration to inspiration”. We’ve chosen this coming year to focus our efforts on inspiring younger kids – third graders, mostly – to want to get involved in music.
We’re doing this on several levels. First, there’s the pilot program in string instruction we’ll be introducing at Birch Hill Elementary, led by SNH violinist Nancy Goodwin. Our aim here is just to get something started so kids can see that strings are an option in addition to band and chorus. Second, we’ll work with middle school music teachers to develop mentorship opportunities for their students in band and chorus, using musicians from the SNH orchestra and chorus.
Finally, we’re reconfiguring our (h)EARS program. Instead of 6th graders, this year we’ll present a new concert program designed specifically for 3rd graders, in an effort to get them excited about choosing an instrument to play when they reach 4th grade. Jonathan McPhee led a similar program to success in Lexington, where teachers reported a dramatic rise in band enrollment after just two years!
All of this is resonating with funders, who seem persuaded by the statistics showing that kids who participate in musical ensembles are more likely to participate as citizens when they grow up – by joining boards, voting, volunteering, running for office – and less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Good for students, good for society. What more can we aspire to?
The airwaves will light up with performances by Symphony NH in April and May. First, NHPR will air a human interest segment that features SNH as part of its “Giving Matters” series at 8:35 AM on Saturday, April 13 (after that, people can access the audio through www.nhpr.org). The segment explores SNH’s effort to showcase a young New Hampshire harpist as soloist with the orchestra last fall, when we worked with 17 year-old harpist Crystal Napoli (winner of Manchester Community Music School’s 2012 NH Youth Symphony Concerto Competition). Ms. Napoli performed Camille Saint-Säens’ Morceau de Concert, and was interviewed by NHPR at the time in preparation for this program.
“I was blown away,” McPhee exclaimed. “It’s rare for a young musician – especially a young harpist – to be able to make music on such a high level, and I’m certain our audience will be equally impressed.” The growing partnership with Manchester Community Music School (we’ve been collaborating on a Halloween family concert since 2010) is an example of how a professional orchestra like Symphony NH is engaging with the community by identifying outstanding, local young talent and giving them the opportunity for a potentially life-altering musical experience.
In addition, a live audio recording of the full November 17, 2012 concert program will be broadcast on WCNH (Classical NH, 91.5 FM) and streamed over www.classicalnh.org). Broadcasts of this and three of our other concerts start at 8:00 PM on the following Fridays:
- April 19: “Fifth Dimensions” – the concert from October 2012 features Brahms’ Nanie, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Caroline Goulding, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
- May 10: “Flying Colors” – the concert from November 2012 features Saint-Säens’ Morceau de Concert with soloist Crystal Napoli, Wagner’s “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla, Tchaikovsky’s suite from Swan Lake, and Stravinsky’s suite from Firebird.
- May 24: “Under the Influence” – the concert from January 2013 includes Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, and Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Josef Haydn.
- July 5: “First Class” – a program from February 2013 explores music with origins in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, including Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre and Copland’s Three Latin American Sketches.
Visit SymphonyNH.org for information on upcoming live performances.
“I’m so excited I can hardly stand it,” wrote Holly MacEwen Krafka in an email to me. She was sharing the news about the call she’d received, inviting her to conduct “The Star-spangled Banner” at Fenway Park’s opening day. [And no, despite the date on this post, this is not an April Fool's joke!]
Holly, who has served as the Symphony NH Chorus’ conductor since August of 2012, has certainly earned her spot on the mound. As founder and conductor of New World Chorale, she’s built a reputation as one of New England’s leading choral conductors. So it was only natural that the Red Sox should seek Holly out as they prepare to celebrate their 60-year partnership with the Jimmy Fund, which supports research and treatment for children with cancer. The performance features kids and adults – both current and former patients – who have benefitted from the Jimmy Fund’s programs. In addition to “The Star-spangled Banner”, the ensemble will sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “Just One Person” from the musical Snoopy.
The opening day game is scheduled for Monday, April 8th at 2:05 pm.
“What a thrill it is getting to work with the wonderful people at the Jimmy Fund and the Red Sox organization,” Holly gushed. “Preparing to sing at Fenway Park combines two of my greatest loves: singing and the Boston Red Sox!”
We’re so lucky to have such a respected member of New England’s musical community leading our Symphony chorus.
Local music lovers can see Holly conduct the Symphony NH Chorus right here in Nashua by attending the “Center Stage” concert on Saturday, April 27 at Keefe Center for the Arts. The program includes opera choruses by Verdi, scenes from Puccini’s La Bohème, and suites from Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.
A few weeks ago, I tried a new restaurant called Moonstones (down in Chelmsford and definitely worth the drive). Their menu is essentially built around a large list of “small plates.” It’s designed for you or your group to order several of these plates, trying as wide or narrow a variety of foods as you wish.
As we were ordering, my wife suggested we have the mussels. She really enjoys them, but since my youth, my taste buds have alternated between a mild dislike and a fervent disdain for this particular cuisine. Truthfully, I’ve never really cared for them at all, so the internal conversation I had with myself went something like this:Nick’s mind: Mussels, huh? I wonder if my tastes have changed. Nick’s taste buds: Mayday, mayday! No, we haven’t. Don’t do this to us. Nick’s mind: Well, how do you really know? Maybe there’s something different this time around, or perhaps even better, you might even find something enjoyable about them. Nick’s taste buds: Trust us, we know. Do. Not. Like. Nick’s mind: So, I’ll make a deal with you. We’ll order them, have one, and then go from there. Plus, I don’t know that it’s particularly healthy to be arguing with… taste buds.
Ok, so maybe that’s an exaggeration. But, I DID have the mussels. And guess what? I didn’t really like them, but I didn’t really dislike them either. In fact, I found some of the flavors to be pretty good, and I would definitely order them again, if only to explore them and see if my tastes have changed.
Those of us who are patrons of this great art of orchestral music routinely go through the same sort of process, although the argument is one with our ears. Do I like Beethoven? YES. Brahms? Absolutely. Wagner? Perhaps. Stravinsky? Oh, no…
We recently had a concert which featured some brilliant Latin American music. It was a real leap of a program, featuring some composers that only the most studied listeners might recognize. However, if you missed it, you missed out on a real gem. The musical colors were bright, the rhythms were sharp, and the atmosphere was electric. The orchestra, soloists, and Colla Voce outdid themselves. We even had a few converts in the process, and here’s what a few people had to say about the program:
“I loved the concert…I have purchased two of the pieces so I can listen again and again.” (Anne, Nashua)
“…exceptionally impressed with the concert… from Puerto Rico and knew the music well.” (Susan, Bedford)
“Terrific program!” (Eric, Nashua)
“This was such fun. People will be sorry they missed it!” (Joan, Hollis)
What to make of all of this? Have the mussels! Try the Stravinsky! When you have the chance, come to the Latin American concert! Our senses refine, change, and evolve constantly, so giving them opportunities to experience new things might open up new worlds for you. Who knows, maybe you just might like the mussels… oops, Stravinsky… after all.