String section from a symphony orchestra

Life’s Most Important Musical Experiences

Yesterday I was in rehearsal with Symphony Nova Scotia for a pair of concerts I’m conducting today. It’s a particularly fun concert – for young children – and it gives the kids a chance to do something that most people never get to do: to play with a symphony orchestra.

The concert is based on a program developed by Carnegie Hall, called Link Up. The kids have been learning to play some exciting classical repertoire — on recorder — back in their schools for the past few months. Today, we put it all together – and we get to hear what close to 1000 recorders sound like when played at the same time!

This is the kind of musical experience these kids will remember for a lifetime: the time they played with a symphony orchestra. Out of the almost 2000 young people who’ll attend today’s concerts, some will become performing musicians as their life’s work. For others, music will be an important pastime that will define who they are.

And for most of them, playing music with professional musicians today will be a powerful, lasting memory, one that will play a significant role in whoever they become.

Do do you have a memory of something similar from your past? Did you play with a professional, or perhaps sing one of your early songs for an idol? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Written by Gary Ewer

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  1. My own “brush with fame” moment was years ago, as a young university trumpet player. While I was rehearsing in a student brass quintet one afternoon, there was a knock on our rehearsal door. Standing there was Fred Mills, former trumpet player in the world-renowned Canadian Brass. (You can read his Wikipedia article here.

    He was in town to play a concert. He said he had heard a brass quintet playing and wanted to know if he could come in and listen. We kept rehearsing, but it was hard to be productive with Mr. Mills listening in. He was very gracious, and gave us what I still consider to be some of the best advice I’ve ever been given regarding playing in a musical group: The job of a player in any music group is to be able to predict what and how the person beside you is going to play. So worry less about mistakes, and just play a lot. Focus completely on the player beside you. The mistakes will sort themselves out.

    I really believe that advice to be true, and it guided how I’ve worked with ensembles through my career.


  2. My boyfriend, Marty, who was a local level musician/singer for 30+ years has a great memory:
    When he was working as a bar back and Sunday night performer at Tobacco Road in Miami, he was watching a performance of Bobby Keys’ (sax player for the Rolling Stones) own band at the bar. Out of the blue, Bobby Keys points in Marty’s direction asking someone to get their harmonica and come on stage. Marty said he turned and looked behind, but Mr. Keys meant him! Marty had no idea Bobby Keys had heard Marty practicing for his own Sunday night show at Tobacco Road earlier that day. Anyway, Marty quickly ran and got his harps case, and had a blast playing one song with Bobby Keys on stage! It’s one of his favorite memories.

  3. Nothing as exciting as playing with pros, but in college, I played in a clarinet quartet. That was a great experience because I had only ever played in high school band or solo for competition, so this was a chance to play with amazingly proficient players who were far better than I was.

    • Thanks, Chris. There have been concerts that I’ve played in as a trumpet player when I would look around onstage and realize that I was probably the least accomplished player on stage. But that thought usually made me feel proud to even be on a stage with those players. Highly motivational, to say the least!


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