Concerts for 4th Graders

An annual free concert geared specifically to local 4th graders

Next date to be determined.

We are evaluating our education programs and plan to reinstate programming in an upcoming season.

Rochester Symphony, together with Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestras (SEMYO), present an annual free concert geared specifically to a young audience. Each concert is approximately 40 minutes and generous sponsorship allows these performances to be offered at no cost to area schools.

Who would have thought it could be so much fun?

Post-Event Thoughts from Retired Maestro Jere Lantz

First, there would be nearly 2,000 9- and 10-year-olds in the audience. And the Rochester Symphony Orchestra would be oversize—augmented by 30 or so players from SEMYO, the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestra.

An ungainly affair at best, it seemed to me. The planning had gone very smoothly: SEMYO conductor Adam Lang-Pearson and I had conferred. Adam had suggested some pieces; I suggested others. Together we came up with a program that had variety in style, period and mood, that we could put together without extensive rehearsal, and that would appeal, we hoped, to 9- and 10-year-olds.

The audience was to be all the fourth graders in the Rochester Public Schools, plus most of their classmates from private and parochial schools. All schools within a 25-mile radius of Rochester were invited as well, and quite a number of their fourth graders were coming, too.

Fortunately we had the foresight to offer two 40-minute programs, dividing our young audience into more manageable cadres of 1200 and 800 that morning in the John Marshall High School Auditorium. Still, it would be quite a feat, I thought, to keep such a large number of energetic youngsters attentive through six pieces, each tailored to be varied and interesting to the spirited throng.

And then there was the question of integrating the young SEMYO players into the symphony. Rather than seating the two sets of players in separate though adjoining groups, we observed the time-honored practice of “side-by-side” seating: each SEMYO player sat next to an RSO pro. The difference in the sound was palpable: the young artists added significantly to the heft and sheen of our sonority. The richness was gorgeous.

We leapt into our program with vigor, starting with a hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music, zipping through a movement of Haydn’s Military Symphony (No. 100), a modern piece called Aboriginal Rituals, created for young orchestras by American teacher Elliot del Borgo, and a truncated version of Ravel’s Pavane, before launching into what we knew would be the favorite of our surprisingly attentive audience: the score from the hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean. That got quite a shout. We closed with the “Farandole” from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne suite, a piece Adam and I knew would capture the kids with its rising energy and tempo climaxing in a huge sound at breakneck speed. Another shout.

We had done it. And they seemed to like it.

To find out for myself, I scampered quickly off the stage and around the hallways to be at the front doors of the auditorium as the kids emerged. I talked to a lot of them, all smiling and chatty, apparently happy to meet the old guy they had seen from a distance waving a stick at the multitude onstage.

A lot of them said nice things. But the one I’ll always remember started by saying, “Could I ask you something?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Next year, could you do this for the 5th grade?” he said.
“And the next year for the sixth grade?,” I countered.
“You get it!” was his reply.

Best compliment I ever got.