2014-03-20 / Youth

Music of the night

Education notes
Gay deMontel

“It was amazing!”

“It was so cool!”

“When can we go again?”

“I could do that every day!”

These were comments made by H.G. Olsen Elementary School fifth graders after attending a Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra concert on Feb. 8.

For eight consecutive years, the Port Aransas Education Foundation has made it possible for the fifth grade class to attend dinner and a concert. Members of the first group to get to go on this outing are now seniors in high school! Every year it is an honor to arrange the event because it allows the children of Port Aransas to do something extraordinary.

To prepare for the evening, H.G. Olsen principal Gina McKeever had a session with the students to brush up on appropriate table manners. Pastor William Campbell spoke to each class about concert etiquette. He talked about why people dress up, acceptable behavior at a concert hall and protocol on when to applaud. During music classes at school, the instruments of the orchestra were reviewed and an overview of the music to be played at the concert was provided.

On the big night, the welldressed students and chaperones arrived at Trout Street Bar and Grill. The kids marveled at each other’s appearance (so did the teachers.) The tables in the upstairs dining room were beautifully set with tablecloths, place cards and cloth napkins. Everyone began with a dinner salad and garlic bread as waiters came by to take individual entrée orders. A special menu was prepared just for this event by Trout Street manager, Chip Ritz. Dinner was served, followed by dessert. The wait staff was fantastic and the students’ behavior was positively remarkable.

After dinner we boarded our big yellow “limousine” to head to the concert hall in Corpus Christi. We felt so special because our bus driver, who is also the dad of a fifth grader, was dressed in concert attire.

Upon arrival at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center, we had plenty of time to find our seats and forget the bus ride (oops, did I say that?) The students acted very polite and sophisticated amongst the other concertgoers. The anticipation grew as the concert master began to tune the orchestra followed by Maestro John Giordano coming on stage.

The music prepared for the evening’s concert was from the Romantic period (1820- 1900.) The first piece was the lively and light-hearted “Overture to La Scala de Seta” by Rossini. It was in that piece students heard the very distinct sound of the oboe and bassoon and several of them were so fascinated by those instruments, I think Jim Cole should be prepared for some new double reed players! The next piece was a rich and lyrical cello concerto written by Robert Schumann performed by a world famous guest cellist, David Finckel.

After intermission, we were enthralled with Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” This huge work of art music is written in five movements with each movement telling a part of the “story.” We heard harps, English horns, a plethora of percussion, extreme varying tempi and dynamics; we certainly learned it is a “fantastique” composition.

It was an incredible night and for some, a once-in-alife time experience. I am so appreciative of the PAEF and this community supporting fine arts education. Attending live performances - be it dance, theatre, opera or musical ensemble, is an unmatched reality. No matter how much technology continues to improve, there is no substitute for the thrill, understanding and appreciation that comes from seeing and hearing a production first-hand. The Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra is very gracious to sell us tickets at a discount and state they look forward to the Port Aransas fifth graders attending a concert every year. Some of the regular patrons of the orchestra look for us each year as well and seem delighted to see the children. For those anxious to attend another concert, check the CCSO website for dates, times, and music selections – more often than not, student discounts are available, especially if you call ahead for a reservation. A very popular event coming up on March 29 is “Pops in the Park” at Whataburger Field. This year’s theme is Deep in the Heart of Texas, celebrating the Lone Star State with pre-concert fun for the family, Harbor Bridge lighting synchronized with music and a spectacular fireworks display. Student tickets are only $5 and kids 12 and under are free!

I encourage all parents and students to take advantage of live performances whenever possible. Fine arts education at all educational levels is foundational and necessary to a well-rounded individual. To get a glimpse of the “bigger picture” through the arts is priceless.

Gay deMontel is an art, music and GT (gifted and talented) teacher at H.G. Olsen Elementary School.

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