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March 20, 2012 > Annual children's symphony concert

Annual children's symphony concert

By Mauricio Segura

Most adults growing up between the 60s through 90s received a great share of classical music influence (whether they knew it or not) from Saturday morning cartoons. How can one forget Tom chasing Jerry to the sounds of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," Bugs Bunny in a white powdered wig, conducting Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony," or Elmer Fudd's famous operatic styling of "Kill the Wabbit" accompanied by Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"? Beyond that, it wasn't rare for one or both parents, and definitely grandparents, to have some classical music playing from time to time. In grade school, teachers would have music appreciation classes that tied it all together. It wasn't just cartoon music one would realize; a kid named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote this stuff 200 years ago. Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Debussy, and Bach still found a way into the ears of the generation.

Today, classical music unfortunately doesn't infiltrate the young masses as it used to. Younger generations are missing out on what it is to appreciate well-orchestrated music, and even the classic cartoons, which would be last resort, are practically non-existent. Schools have suffered from financial cutbacks which have hurt music programs drastically. Classical music is an acquired taste, and the younger someone is introduced to it, the better the chance he or she will have to develop a lifelong appreciation and love for it.

For the past 30 years, the Fremont Symphony Orchestra has been performing a yearly Children's Concert as part of their regular season program. School aged children from Fremont and Newark, many who have never seen or heard a live symphonic orchestra, are invited along with their schools to this special performance at Ohlone College. "This has been a great way for the kids to enjoy and appreciate music," says teacher Gerry Sidney, "they find out that there's more out there than just rap, pop, and rock."

Through the concert, the children are shown that music is a universal language that they themselves can learn to master. This is proven to them in a few ways. First, one of the winners of the annual Young Artists Competition is invited to play a piece with the orchestra. The showcasing of this artist allows children a chance to see someone closer to their age showing his or her talent with their musical instrument. Secondly, weeks prior, children from all over the district have a chance to submit their own compositions. Sometimes it's just a single line of music, sometimes a more melodic score, but a handful of the submissions are chosen and arranged by violinist and composer Mark Volkert to be played by the full orchestra during this concert. The young composers are then introduced one by one and their pieces are played for all to hear.

Tess Melendez of the Fremont Unified School District says, "If I were a student hearing my piece played by a full orchestra, I can't imagine what that would do for my self-esteem." Volkert adds, "It's such an enriching program. It shows that they too can do it. It's not some mysterious thing that you have to be a genius to be a composer, that's not true." What better way to get children excited about classical music than seeing their friends, kids their own age, creating music.

To accommodate all the schools in the district, two concerts will be held at the Ohlone College Gymnasium on Tuesday March 20. The first will be at 10:20 a.m. and the second at 12 noon. Both concerts will run 50 minutes and be conducted by Maestro David Sloss, who says, "Our concerts connect children with orchestral music, both as a listener and as participants. It is inspiring to see the energy and excitement that flow from young people who are making new discoveries about musical instruments, the orchestra, classical music, performing, and composing. If we can help showing these kids how much gain and reward there is from doing this, it's wonderful."

To learn more about the Children's Concerts or the Fremont Symphony Orchestra, call (510) 371-4860 or visit online at

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