Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building Our Future Audience

It's never too early to recruit our future audiences. Indeed, I can hardly think of a more important activity: if we leave our youth behind, who will attend early music concerts in the coming years? Time is always precious, so why would someone come to an early music concert if they thought of it in terms of ancient and obscure instruments performing old and boring music?

So, the outreach program of the San Diego Early Music Society is more than a duty, it is a passion. This year we were especially fortunate to bring members of Musica ad Rhenum to Oak Park Elementary. I'm embarrassed to admit that Oak Park's existence has eluded me: more properly, it should be referred to as Oak Park Music Conservatory. It is part of our magnet school program, focused on providing a broad education, but with additional exposure to music. I thought music education was largely dead in California public schools, so this was an exciting find for me.

I could hardly imagine a better early music ensemble to bring with us. The five members of Musica ad Rhenum are fun to hang around with: good natured, spontaneous, and generous. I noticed in their formal performance last night that they played as a group of peers – there was no prima donna, but rather a friendly gathering of virtuosi collaborators.

We had lots to show these budding musicians. They were naturally fascinated with the contrast between the small harpsichord we brought and the modern piano. One observant child wondered why the baroque violin didn't have a chin rest. There was a lot of interest in the nearly keyless baroque flute, demonstrated by Jed Wentz; they could relate to this  because it was a kind of cross between the recorders and modern flutes they play.

Viola da gamba player Cassandra Luckhardt led a wonderful discussion of the differences between the gamba and cello, assisted by baroque violin cello player Job ter Haar. See the size and feel the energy of this enthusiastic audience. These kids are not only our future audience, they are our musical future.

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