Risk

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Risk. It’s not just a board game. It’s also illustrated in the persistence of a performing career–seen in every musician who walks onto a stage in front of a live audience, week after week, year after year. It can be seen in the way a piece of music is composed and presented, or even how concert program is designed. It exists every time musicians open themselves to others–with the audacity to share, move, create. Risk. It’s what makes art work.
Addendum: And we don’t need to conquer, we simply win everyone over to our side.
Copyright, 2017. Robert Baldwin: Before the Downbeat
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You never know who is at your concert

“Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together” ~ Robert Redford

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No, Robert Redford was not at last night’s Salt Lake Symphony concert. At least I don’t think he was in attendance. By the title of this post, one might think someone really famous was at the concert last night. That may indeed be true, but this is about the regular patrons, people who I spoke with or heard reports from others regarding their experience. While perhaps not as spectacular as saying someone “famous” was in attendance, recognizing the importance of every person is more important in the long-run.

For example, there was the unexpected visitor, a man from France who decided to attend our concert as part of his ski-vacation to Utah. Incidentally, he’s also the man who chuckled at the end of the concert, and reported that he found great humor and joy in the Hely-Hutchinson Carol Symphony. There was also a woman who was so moved to hear seasonal music other than the Messiah and Nutcracker that she asked if we do these pieces every year. She wanted to hear them again. (Sorry, no, but every year’s concert is different!).

Perhaps the most important patrons were the teenagers and young adults who were in attendance. Now, of course, teenagers are not normally thought of as happy concert-goers. More likely they are stereotyped as sullen types who don’t have a choice, being dragged to the concert hall by their parents. While there were undoubtedly some of those, there were also several young people who excitedly reported afterward that they played music, or had just started new instruments (French horn, percussion, violin). When asked why, they reported it was because they had been coming to concerts and love the sound of a particular instrument. They also said they love the sound of a full symphony orchestra. Their eyes were smiling, practically shining, as they said this, almost unable to contain their excitement. It is significant that they made a point to come to the stage and talk with our musicians after the concert. It is also very important that our musicians graciously engaged with them—the musicians of today together with both the musicians and audience members of tomorrow.

There was indeed a person of some local concert fame at the concert. We lovingly call him “Delta-Guy,” but his real name is John. He works for Delta Airlines, and seemingly attends every cultural event in Salt Lake City. He is spotted at Utah Symphony concerts, Utah Opera, Ballet West, collegiate concerts, high school concerts and practically every Salt Lake Symphony concert I’ve conducted for the past 12 years. He often is still wearing his work-clothes and airport ID badge, coming directly from SLC Terminal 2 to the concert hall. He is a consummate consumer of everything classical. We had a nice conversation after the concert about Samuel Barber’s Die Natali, which was on last night’s program.

We musicians sometimes worry about who is “in the audience.” Will this “person-of-note” hear me and be impressed? What does she think?” etc. “Will it lead to something further for me, my own fame, fortune, or maybe at least a gig?

There may indeed have been someone famous there last night. Actually, I have no idea. More importantly, there were several hundred people who wanted to be there and for which we made a difference with our performance. That is why we do what we do. And that, my friends, is what assures the future of our art form.

Copyright 2016. Robert Baldwin, Before the Downbeat

Photo credit: http://www.sltrib.com/entertainment/1414530-155/redford-weinstein-100-influential-filmmakers-robert

Making a Difference: An Open Letter to the Symphony

Dear SLS Colleagues,

Perhaps like you, I’m spending the day recovering from Shostakovich. A dull tiredness and the still-persistent DSCH(!) going through my head are evidence of a Shosty-hangover! This is mitigated, however, by the satisfaction that we gave a fantastic performance to open the 2014-15 season. It is, of course, my job to publicly say that “every concert is a good concert,” but Saturday’s performance was special and sure to become a memorable event in the history of our ensemble.

In spite of the rain, football parking issues, and the monumental challenge of the music waiting on every stand, we came, we played, we conquered! The audience was receptive; the orchestra was prepared, and the performance was electrifying.

Certainly our performance was not perfect. (What live performance is?). But what we may have lacked in perfection, we more than made up for in dedication to the music and message. I have rarely heard this ensemble play with such conviction. Solo wind chairs, in particular, were stunning. The audience’s ovation was genuine and deserved by all on stage.

The obvious enthusiasm after the performance was further punctuated a post-concert comment from a patron:

“This shouldn’t be possible with a volunteer orchestra.”

Even more poignantly, this post-concert comment was received by Alecia, one of our SLS violinists, from a woman she didn’t know:

“I cried in the first movement because it sounded as if the music touched heaven.”

I’ve no idea what caused this woman to express this, why she was moved in this way, or even exactly where in the score she was referring, but the fact that she sought out one of us to express her feelings is important. It shows that the work we do, the music we share, and the lives we touch make it worthwhile. People notice. And when moved, they want to thank us for the experience. You are all engaged in making a positive change in our world, and for that you have my thanks as well.

It is indeed possible. And it is happening for eight more concerts this season and undoubtedly in future seasons as well. Music of Dvorak, Beethoven and Williams are next up. Onward! But first, please enjoy your week off!

Musically yours,

Rob