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The gift of music

I was born into a musical family. My father played trombone, sang in the church choir, and adored opera. My mother earned a degree in music from Northwestern and was a piano teacher for over 20 years.Season tickets at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall were de rigueur for my parents, as were summers on the lawn at Ravinia, a popular suburban venue and summer home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.My mother once played a piano accompaniment for Lauritz Melchior, the Danish tenor. This was a prestigious note in my mother’s musical life, not only for the honor of accompanying Melchior, but because she and my father were loyal Danes.The gift of music was squandered on me as a youngster, at least in formal training. I evaded piano lessons with mom by shedding copious tears at the piano bench. Playing baseball took precedence over playing “Fur Elise.”Still, music struck a chord in me. I performed in school bands and orchestras, and some of my fondest family memories are of harmonic singalongs on long car trips or for any other noteworthy occasion.Not all kids get that kind of exposure, which is why the “Day of Music,” held two weeks ago at the Aspen Music Festival and School, was such an outstanding opportunity for families and children.The “Day of Music” began with a full morning of open classroom sessions at the idyllic campus on Castle Creek, then segued into an afternoon and evening of performances at the Music Tent and Harris Hall.”Everybody knows about the great performers and soloists who come to the Music Festival, but we also wanted people to understand the school part of things,” said Jeff Tsai, who organized the morning program. “Since we are primarily educational, we wanted to the community to see where our roots are.”Those roots include music appreciation, which comes in many guises. That evening, at a complementary dinner at the Music Tent, music students demonstrated their skills in a festive atmosphere reminiscent of a gypsy camp. The families that attended were captivated.The family concert that followed featured Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Carnival of the Animals” and Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” both masterfully narrated by actor and conductor Damon Gupton. Kids squirmed and some cried outright, but they all heard the lion roar and the piccolos trill.”We love to support the Music Festival and its purpose,” explained Jamie Dicks, regional marketing director for Alpine Bank. “We are community oriented and we love to promote educational and cultural community events. It fits for us.”This introduction to orchestral music could not have been more complete, and if it enlists a new generation of supporters to classical music, then it was well worth the investment. Judging from my own experience bringing three 11-year-old boys to the “Day of Music,” the program has great promise.Sure these boys were suited up in full skateboard gear and were at first more enticed by the skatepark than the music tent. But music has a way of getting into your blood, just as it got into mine, and I could see a glimmer of that in these boys. They were enraptured by the vitality of the Urban Brass Quintet as trumpets and trombones spoke in elegant tones. And when the family concert opened with a rousing Kabalevsky overture, they leaned forward in their seats and absorbed the sights and sounds of the orchestra.The “Day of Music” is a gift that makes Aspen a special and generous community. One day the event may pay dividends when a concert musician looks back to when he was an 11-year-old skateboarder, sitting in the audience, wondering if he could ever become part of the inspiring world of music.Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays


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