Monday, December 13, 2010

Speech by Karl Paulnack of Boston Conservatory

Speech by Karl Paulnack of Boston Conservatory

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day. At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship bet ween invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during Worl d War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in t he front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.
What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”
Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevys. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The performance includes L'Aresienne by Bizet, Sheep May Safely Graze, Hill-side Carol by Alan Bullard, Carol of the Bells, Music from Home Alone and the Polar Express, Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky's Scherzo for Symphony No. 1, a Sing-Along and much more!

The annual "Holiday Magic" concert brings together 220 youth on the stage of the Meyerson. A fun performance that is sure to thrill all ages.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Behind the scenes at GDYO concerts

Behind the scenes at the GDYO concerts

For most of you who attend performances by GDYO ensembles, you only see what is happening on the stage. The musicians performing. For those who get to be backstage you see the movement and hear the sounds of a venue in motion.

It’s actually all very simple what happens backstage. But it takes a well-choreographed plan to put everything in place before musicians take the stage.

It starts at the office, at a desk with a computer and a phone. The mundane task of contacting, updating, filling out and planning doesn’t take much movement at all. Except for fingers and a few head nods.

Not very exciting. But on the day of the concert, it becomes a dramatic dance.

For the operations and stage crew things start when the truck arrives and we load the percussion equipment. It’s not a hard task, but there is lots of lifting and pushing and pulling. Once loaded the truck heads to the venue with staff in tow.

The unloading dock at the Meyerson is a pretty standard loading dock, built mostly for large semis and not small rental trucks. The smell is the worst part. Because next to the loading truck is the dumpster for the food service. It’s never sweet and usually quite foul. But it does help in making things move faster.

After unloading the truck, all equipment gets put on a large elevator. This is a favorite. When the elevator goes up or down it looks as if the building is moving and the elevator is standing still. It grinds to a halt and the massive door open in to a small room. Two very large doors (big enough for a car to fit through) open into the backstage of the Meyerson.

And now begins the run and chase. Time is of the essence and there is usually very little of it. The crew and members of the percussion unload the elevator and get it to the stage. But while this is all going on another thing is happening, the stage is being set with chairs and stands.

And this is the hardest of all the tasks. For the Meyerson has risers and what creates a great view for you the audience becomes a pain of bruises and nicks as chairs and stands are lifted up and around and through. A 100-piece orchestra usually takes a good 10 minutes to set up. That is record breaking and believe it or not it’s been done in less time than that.

And while all this is going on, musicians begin to arrive and warm-up in the backstage area.

Once the stage is set a bellow calls out “On stage” and the mass of instrumentalists make their way. A bottleneck always happens at the three entrances as many stop to stare out into the empty hall or cannot find the chair they need.

Once all are settled and everyone has what they need, the rehearsal begins.

The stage crew takes a short break to discuss the concert and tactics as to what needs to be moved when. Always within earshot of the rehearsal as a conductor can yell at any minute for the need of something.

And then the rehearsal ends and the musicians return to the backstage.

The crew double checks the set up and then at the exact moment calls for all to be on stage. And so the concert begins….

But there is so much more that happens – the little bits of conversation before the conductor enters, the jokes, the laughter, the looking at the audience. There is camaraderie among thieves and the stage crew members have a moment where they are part of the show and share their own little secret. They know what is happening before, they know when there is a mistake, and they know when something goes really well. They see the nervousness of the musicians, the high energy of the conductor and all the while are having fun. Telling stories, jokes and much more.

They breathe and rest during pieces and then are on again at the end of a piece.

And when it is all over and everyone is heading to the lobby or to their cars. The stage crew stays behind and helps put away the stands and chairs. They (along with the percussionists) load everything back into the elevator and onto the truck. Doing again what they started. Sending the percussionists home, the crew heads back to the Sammons and again unloads. Many of you are already at home, reliving the moments you heard and saw. The operations and stage crew have barely left the building.

We start and we end. Our final note is the locking of the door.

Tonya Assid, Operations Manager

Monday, November 15, 2010

Philharmonic concert review by Laurie Orloff

I attended the GDYO concert on Sunday, November 7, 2010 at the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center. Performing were GDYO's Flute Choir, Philharmonic and Wind Symphony. I wanted to write a little about the Philharmonic. Under the baton of James Frank, they performed Overture to Nabucco, by Giuseppe Verdi, Mock Morris, by George Percy Grainger, the first movement of Camille Saint-Saens Cello Concerto in A minor with soloist Eugene Kim and the finale of Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 in D Major.

The concert was so amazing. This group sounded like a professional orchestra, hands down. I closed my eyes many times during it so that I could imagine I wasn't watching children, but long time seasoned professional symphony musicians. I did open my eyes quite often though because seeing that these pieces were played by students, made my heart sing.

The attention to detail, the concentration and the musicianship displayed by these students was remarkable to say the least. Unfortunately, I meant to write about each piece and mention certain details, but I left my pad of paper and pen in the car, so I resigned myself (I use that term very loosely) to just listening and enjoying.

Eugene Kim played the Saint-Saens so beautifully and with such precision and much attention to detail and phrasing. He has a beautiful musical career ahead of him. The orchestra accompanied him very carefully. One could see the eyes of the orchestra members glued on Mr. Frank for direction and accurateness in following the soloist.

Nabucco and Mock Morris were done beautifully as well. The finale of the Sibelius was outstanding and was my favorite. I have played this piece before and it took me back to when that I did it. It was so wonderful just floating with the lush, rich melodies and not having to worry about producing the music, myself. I don't even think the performance I did of it with the Yale Symphony sounded this good. There is so much to be said about young performers who have the leadership that they do discovering their abilities in the mix of dozens of other musicians with the same goals in mind.

If you haven't heard any of the GDYO groups yet, please make it a point to go to the concerts. There is so much to appreciate on so many levels. You can't help but leave the hall feeling on top of the world and optimistic about the future of music and about life in general headed by these students who have yet to be viable adults making this world what it is yet to become.

Laurie Orloff,
Symphony Violist, Private viola and violin teacher
Author of: How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Teen Survival Guide

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The GDYO opened the 2010-2011 Season on October 24th. The performance at the Meyerson is a unique treat for these young musicians. For many it was their first time on this stage. And they loved it.
These concerts take work and effort from all involved. Each musician must prepare their part. The conductor studies his scores and works the rehearsals. The staff must prepare the logistics including schedules, tickets, music and much more. Parents must support their children by driving them to rehearsals, double checking schedules and giving whatever their child needs to help make this happen for them.

All this starts eight weeks before we step foot in the Meyerson. And every minute of it is worth it. Because getting to hear these musicians on this stage and seeing their faces is what it truly is about.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in all the things that must be done to make it happen. We forget what we are doing this for. Then everybody sits down on that stage and plays the first note and then we remember.

The GDYO did a fantastic job on Sunday night. They had a tough program put before them. They did well with the challenge. Another great concert to another great season.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

La Valse program notes

The final piece on the October 24th concert will be La Valse by Ravel. This is the program note written by Saad Daniari, violist in the GDYO.

La Valse

Maurice Ravel

Born March 7, 1875 in Ciboure, France

Died December 28, 1937 in Paris, France

La Valse, one of Maurice Ravel’s most intricate and elaborate compositions, is a musical work whose interpretation has undergone endless discussion. As early as 1906, Ravel had aspired to create a piece of music in order to celebrate the waltz. He planned to title this piece Wien (Vienna) and molded it as a tribute to a prominent Viennese composer. In one of his letters, Ravel said:

It’s not subtle what I’m undertaking at present: a grand waltz, a kind of homage to the memory of the great Strauss, not Richard, the other one, Johann. You know of my profound empathy with these admirable rhythms, and that I rate the joie de vivre expressed by the dance more deeply than Franckist Puritanism.

A precursor to the eventual work was Valses nobles et sentimentales, which utilized many of the motifs and musical ornamentations heard in La Valse. Ravel began to combine elements of both Valses nobles as well as sketches of Wien in order to produce a symphonic work that, to his dismay, would baffle and perplex a majority of the musical community. It would be titled La Valse: a French perspective of the Viennese waltz.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Ravel’s work is that it exists in several versions. The piece originated as a piano solo; however, it was arranged for two pianos and a symphony orchestra as well. The symphonic version was developed under commission by Sergei Diaghilev, an influential patron of the arts. When Ravel presented the piece to Diaghilev, the Russian impresario was taken aback by the immense creative liberties that Ravel had incorporated into his score. In response to hearing the composition, he said “…this is not a ballet; this is a portrait of a ballet, a painting of a ballet.” Ravel was deeply offended by Diaghilev’s criticism of La Valse and refused to work with him in any future endeavors. The altercation that occurred regarding the work ultimately marked the end of their friendship. While Ravel secured an orchestral performance of his piece in 1920, it didn’t premier as a ballet for another nine years.

Laced with atmospheric details and ethereal undertones, Ravel’s continually debated composition can best be described as un poème chorégraphique (a choreographic poem) – an orchestral work designed for a ballet, yet also standing as a self-sufficient piece of music, as it offers many of the artistic characteristics evident in a tone poem. La Valse opens with a nearly silent mist of sound generated through the rumbling of the double basses, eventually joined by the cellos and the harps. In a very gradual progression, various instruments enter, culminating into the eruption of a waltz melody. As the piece continues, it evolves into a more macabre dance. The division of each string section into three separate parts truly exemplifies the intricacy of the work.

In his analysis of La Valse, the composer George Benjamin stated:

Whether or not it was intended as a metaphor for the predicament of European civilization in the aftermath of the Great War, its one-movement design plots the birth, decay and destruction of a musical genre: the waltz.

La Valse is one of the most challenging pieces of music ever composed for a symphony orchestra. Maurice Ravel combined cultural influences from France and Vienna in order to create an extraordinary and unconventional composition. For any orchestra, to perform the work is an extremely virtuosic feat.

Ravel scored La Valse for three flutes and piccolo, three oboes and english horn, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, castanets, tam-tam, antique cymbals, celesta, two harps, and strings.

-Saad Daniari, viola

Schubert Unfinished program notes

The third piece performed on the October 24th concert is Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. This is the program note written by Robert Gonzalez, violinist in the GDYO.

Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished) October - November 1822

Franz Peter Schubert

Born, January 31, 1797 Vienna November 19, 1828.

Franz Schubert is one of the most brilliant composers of the early romantic era. His contributions include many compositions of chamber music. The most widely known include The Trout Quintet and Death of a Maiden. Schubert wrote many songs and elevated the genre from folk tradition to an accepted classic form. In all, he wrote nine symphonies. But of all his musical accomplishments, Schubert remains first and foremost a great symphonic composer. He wrote nine symphonies total. Ironically, his best known and perhaps most beloved is his Eighth Symphony, the symphony which Mr. Schubert never finished.

As a child, Schubert played in his family quartet. All his family members played string instruments, but Schubert first learned the piano. Young Franz was later introduced to the violin by his father Franz Theodor who was a school master and also enjoyed playing the cello. After several years of study, Schubert showed great musical talent but was still pressured to be a school teacher like his father. In 1808 Schubert won first place in an open competition as a choirboy, and his talent was recognized by Anton Salieri, famous composer of the time and court composer to the emperor. Eventually, Schuberts parents relented and allowed him to seriously study music.

In 1810 Schubert began to work on his earliest songs and essays in cantata form. He began writing his first symphony in 1811 at the age of fourteen. This work in D major was finished by 1813. Over the next twelve years, Schubert wrote nine symphonies, which many times were compared to those of Haydn and Mozart. It was not until his Eighth Symphony that Schubert began distinguishing his own unique style of symphonic composition. He incorporated key complexities and unforgettable melodies, but his Eighth Symphony remained unfinished. No one knows exactly why he left it incomplete, but it still stands as one of the most beloved symphonies of all time. Schubert wrote the Eighth Symphony in a period of great artistic struggle. His operas were very poorly received by the public. These were years when he wrote a much higher percentage of unfinished works than at any other time in his career. He finished the first two movements of the Eighth and almost completed a sketch for a third movement, a Scherzo. He actually orchestrated the first nine measures of the third, and then set the work aside.

One theory explaining why the eighth symphony was left unfinished is that Schubert recognized many similarities between his score and Beethovens 2nd Symphony. He feared he would be accused of plagiarism. Another is that he simply felt he could not create subsequent movements that were as good as the first two. Still, other people feel he may have had so many ideas in his head that he put it aside in favor of exploring other ideas.

At that time Schuberts fame did not come from his instrumental work but rather from his lieder or art song. Considered one of western musics greatest composers of song, Schubert took lieder to a deeper level than any composer before him. Most of his melodies are memorable and many unforgettable. Schuberts richness in keys is another unique quality in his work. His Lieder are bolder than his early instrumental work. He took liberties in key changes with songs that he never did in his instrumental work. It was not until the Eighth Symphony that his monothematic structures come to full maturity in orchestral work.

A year after abandoning the Eighth, Schubert gave the manuscript to his longtime friend Josef Huttenbrenner, who did nothing with the work for three decades except create a piano duet arrangement out of portions of it. In 1865, long after Schuberts death, the Unfinished Symphony premiered in Vienna.

Conducted by Johann Herbeck, the first performance of the Eighth Symphony showed how different and unique this work was as compared to Schuberts earlier symphonies. The first movement begins with a very low and somber theme from the double basses and cellos, followed by a whispering accompaniment played by the violins. Then, the clarinet and oboe take over and play the melody in unison creating a unique sound that had never been written before. The second theme begins with cellos playing a charming melody, possibly the symphonys most familiar theme, which then gets passed onto the violins. The piece suddenly goes to a dark place as soon as the violin melody is completed. The mood shifts rapidly and often from extreme bliss to darkness and back again. The hectic and nervous changes perhaps reflect the mental state of the composer during the difficult period when he conceived this work.

As compared to the abruptly changing first movement, the second provides a momentary break starting with the violins playing an enchanting melody. The primary theme is reintroduced with little variation. A shocking flute and oboe duet first draws us in with its beauty only to betray us with chaos. It invites us and then abandons us. Had Schubert finished this work, perhaps the teasing aspects of the second movement would have been resolved in the fully developed third and fourth movements. But even without a satisfying musical conclusion to this symphony, we remain enchanted with its singular melodic focus that keeps our full attention from beginning to end. In fact, that attention takes us into the parking lot and stays with us on our ride home from the concert hall. Though Schubert left us wanting more from this masterwork, what more can we want than the melody that Mr. Schubert DID finish.

The Symphony No. 8 in B minor is written for strings, flute, oboe, bassoon, cornet, trumpet, trombones and timpani.

- Robert Gonzalez, violin

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Suite from Hary Janos

Another piece performed on the upcoming October 24th performance is Suite from Hary Janos. This is the program note written by Austin Allen, percussionist in the GDYO.

Suite from Háry János

Zoltán Kodály

Born December 16, 1882 in Kecskemét, Hungary

Died March 6, 1967 in Budapest, Hungary

Zoltán Kodály, one of Hungary’s most esteemed composers and educators, studied viola, violin, cello, and piano as a young child. He was in both the Nagyszombat choir and orchestra and, at the age of 15, entered the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. Graduating with a teaching diploma in 1905, he began a lifelong project of collecting, categorizing, and analyzing Hungarian folk tunes. Today, Kodály is recognized as one of the first people to delve into the field of ethnomusicology. In 1907, now 23, Kodály, along with his friend and colleague Béla Bartók, was appointed professor at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest.

Kodály composed Psalmus Hungaricus, an oratorio written in celebration of the unification of the cities of Buda and Pest after World War I. This composition marked an enormous breakthrough for Kodály in terms of international recognition. His growing reputation was solidified with the composition of his opera Háry János only a few years later.

In addition to his awe-inspiring compositions, Kodály is equally known for his work in music education. This field is where his love for folk songs was very useful, for Kodály believed that folk songs were more accessible to young people than most forms of music. Upon retirement, Kodály began to travel the world, conducting many of his own works. He never ceased loving music and received many awards throughout his life for both his inspirational compositions and his efforts in the field of music education.

Kodály's opera Háry János was first performed on October 16, 1926 in Budapest. It is a comedic Hungarian folk opera based on the comic epic The Veteran by Janos Garay.

In the Opera’s preface, Kodály explained:

Háry is a peasant, a veteran soldier, who day after day sits in the tavern, spinning yarns about his heroic exploits and being a real peasant, the stories produced by his fantastic imagination are an inextricable mixture of realism and naïveté, of comic humour and pathos… .That his stories are not true is irrelevant, for they are the fruit of a lively imagination, seeking to create, for himself and for others, a beautiful dream world.

From this four act opera, Kodály extracted the orchestral highlights of the Háry János Suite. Although the premiere date for the suite is usually cited as December 1927 in New York City, the first actual performance of the Suite took place in Barcelona a few months earlier. This was suppressed primarily, because of the inadequacy of the Spanish performance. The suite consists of six parts. Movements 1, 3 and 5 are largely atmospheric, while Nos. 2, 4 and 6 are based mainly on scenes from the opera.

Prelude: the Fairy Tale Begins

The suite starts with an orchestral imitation of a sneeze. This comes from the old Hungarian belief that a story told after a sneeze is always true. Following the sneeze, the basses and celli emit slow, almost somber tones, finally emerging into a sad melodic theme. This movement provides almost a dreamlike setting for the following movements.

Viennese Musical Clock

The Viennese Musical Clock begins with Háry János at the Austrian Emperor’s court, where he hears the clocks strike at midday. Snare drum and chimes start this movement in imitation of the Emperor’s clock. A light, chipper, yet almost regal melody follows, that, much like the first movement, meanders throughout the orchestra. Needless to say, plenty of percussion is used in this movement!


Song starts with a solo viola, joined presently by the cimbalom. [See sidebar] The music has a light and airy feel and much of the music from this movement is supplied primarily from the Hungarian folk song “This Side the Tisza, Beyond the Danube.”

The Battle and Defeat of Napoleon

The Battle and Defeat of Napoleon is both humorous and satirical. It is a parody on France’s national anthem, La Marseillaise, an example of the European march, and tells the story of how Háry János singlehandedly defeats Napoleon and his men. Brass is extremely prevalent in this movement so be sure to listen for the fanfares as well as the glissandi written for both trombone and tuba.


Intermezzo is a Verbunkos, an 18th-century Hungarian military recruiting dance. The movement’s primary theme is from a piano method written by Istvan Gati in 1802. The cimbalom adds to and complements this movement creating a folksy and atmospheric aura.

Entrance of the Emperor and His Court

Entrance of the Emperor and His Court depicts the Imperial court as seen through the eyes of a peasant. Starting off the movement, the woodwinds mimic the high-pitched banter of the courtiers. Kodaly implements the entire orchestra at once in this movement creating a contrast to the minimal instrumentation commonly heard in the previous movements and we will once again hear the Marseillaise parody from the fourth movement.

The Háry János Suite is scored for 3 flutes (each doubling on piccolo), 2 clarinets (one doubling on alto saxophone), 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 cornets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, Timpani, a large complement of percussion, cimbalom, and strings.

-Austin Allen, percussion


The cimbalom, (sim-buh-luh m) is a stringed instrument similar to the hammer dulcimer. The instrument has a trapezoidal body with four legs and 125 strings, with 3 to 5 strings per note. The instrument is struck with two small spoon-shaped wooden hammers. These hammers are generally wrapped in either soft or hard leather.

Although the use of the cimbalom dates back to the 16th century in Hungary, the modern cimbalom was invented in 1870 by Jozsef Schunda. Many instruments of a more portable nature can be found throughout history in Romania, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. These instruments were carried around and played primarily by wandering Gypsies although, in 1890, the instrument was proclaimed the national instrument of Hungary. The instrument appears in Franz Liszt's Ungarischer Stummarsch, Stravinsky's Le Renard, and Ragtime, and the piece you will be hearing performed tonight by Zoltán Kodály, the Suite from Háry János

-Austin Allen, percussion

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Overture to La Forza del Destino

The Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra will present it's Season Opener on October 24th. One of the pieces performed will be Giuseppe Verdi's La Forza del Destino. This is the program note written by Adam Holmes, percussionist in the GDYO.

Overture to La Forza del Destino

Giuseppe Verdi

Born October 9, 1813 in Roncole, Italy

Died January 27, 1901 in Milan

After having already established himself as a renowned composer and writing his twenty-third opera, Un ballo in maschera (finished in early 1858), Verdi informed friends that he had ceased to be a composer. It would prove to be his longest compositional hiatus to date, lasting over two years; however, Verdi soon had a creative breakthrough. In 1860, he was offered a commission from the Imperial Theatre at St. Petersburg. The following year, Verdi wrote an opera based on the Spanish romantic melodrama Don Alvaro, o La Fuerza del sino.

The opera La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) first premiered in 1862 opening with a short prelude, lasting approximately three minutes. After only moderate success, he decided to revise the prelude into a longer eight minute overture in 1869, which is the version that the GDYO performs this evening

The piece opens with a solemn three-note unison from the brass and low woodwinds. This is often called the “fate motif,” which foreshadows the tragic events to take place in the opera. A driving string theme quickly follows the fate motif, which is shortly joined by the winds and timpani. It later leads into a more lyrical melody taken from a prayer that is sung in the second act of the opera. Finally concluding with a powerful melody from the winds, La Forza del Destino’s overture sets the mood for one of Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpieces.

Scored for Flute, Piccolo, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Bass Trombone, Timpani, Percussion, Harp, and Strings

Adam Holmes, Percussion

Monday, October 4, 2010

Written by Mitta Angell
violist/pianist Dallas Symphony Orchestra

I consider myself to be extremely lucky to be making my living doing what I love the most - playing in a symphony orchestra. Not only do I get to play the fabulous orchestral literature as a violist, I also am able to play the extensive piano literature because I am also a pianist.
My parents were musicians so I really had no choice but to study with the goal of becoming a professional musician. As a child I would rather have been riding my horse, but at least I was sensible enough to know that I wouldn't be able to make a living riding my horse so I practiced the violin and piano. After graduating from college with a double major in violin and piano I switched to the viola and joined the Dallas Symphony in 1965.
Because being a musician is such a demanding and specialized job, I don't recommend that my students pursue a musical career unless they are passionate about it and cannot imagine themselves doing anything else. If you decide that music is the career for you, whether it be performing or teaching or both, be prepared for a great deal of criticism from your teachers and whomever you audition for. Because playing your instrument is such a personal expression it's very difficult not to take these criticisms personally. Rather than personal criticisms your teachers are trying to make you a better player. Even the criticism you may receive from an audition helps you grow as a musician and delve even more deeply into preparation and listening to yourself. The irony of the learning process is that your teacher will tear you up one side and down the other, then when you go out on the stage will tell you to play with confidence and "have fun".
If you chose to become a musician I wish you the best of luck and hope that you love your job as much as I do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Written by Erin Hannigan, principal oboist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

"If there is anything else in your life other than music that you enjoy, that is what you should pursue as a career."

Imagine my surprise when my high school oboe teacher (then Principal Oboist of the Baltimore Symphony) said that to me when I told him my plans to pursue music as a career. How could he say that? I had been Principal oboe of my youth orchestra for years, I had been making All-State since the ninth grade, I was a real hotshot in my high school, and knew that I wanted to play the oboe as a career since I was 12...surely he didn't mean to say such a thing to ME, right? While it hurt to hear those words at that time of my life, years later I realized the depth of his statement (and I also realized the gift that it really was). As time went on, I saw that he had issued a challenge; an inspiration. I sent him a letter thanking him for caring enough about me to prepare me for the road ahead with his honesty.

Music is a wonderful yet incredibly difficult pursuit. A few facts: thousands of young, highly talented, orchestrally trained musicians graduate from top music schools every single year. There are only, as a generous estimate, 10 orchestral positions open for any given instrument across the country every year. College teaching positions are also at a premium, as the number of musicians holding doctorate degrees are at an all-time high. In the recent economic downturn, orchestras of all "calibers" are struggling to keep unavoidable deficits to a minimum.

Therefore, my questions to those of you wishing to pursue a career in music, (and a rewording of the statement my teacher made to me many years ago): do you love music enough to weather the storms ahead? Will the love of it continue to pull you back to the practice room if you (like many) have multiple unsuccessful auditions? Will you work tirelessly on your art until you reach your goals?

If a career in music is truly in your heart and soul, go after those dreams with all the strength that you possess. Where you go to college, who you study with, and even your degree of natural talent are all secondary to the level of hard work and commitment you maintain. Having a degree from the most elite college/conservatory in the world does not guarantee a successful career in music. This is your are the driver, and everything else is simply a navigational tool. There is nothing owed to you in this business.

I love what I do as Principal Oboe of the Dallas Symphony and Adjunct Professor at Southern Methodist University. If I had it to do over again, I would make the exact same choices. The road has not been easy, but I was prepared through those words of my teacher for it to be tough. With those seemingly discouraging words, he lit a fire within me that refused take "no" for an answer. I sincerely hope to do the same for any students I come in contact with. I am thankful every single day of my life for this opportunity to have a career doing what I love. A career in music is a gift not to be taken for granted, and perhaps the fact that it is hard-won makes it even sweeter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Laurie Orloff, GDYO parent
In the last blog I wrote, I totally omitted thanking one other great resource that has contributed to the success of the GDYO and that is the orchestra directors at the schools where students in the GDYO come from. North Texas has some of the finest public and private school orchestral programs in the nation. I am fortunate to be a teacher in some of these systems. The directors are of the highest professional level and are also very nurturing and caring. It takes a tremendous amount of love, patience and expertise to prepare students in school orchestras to become future musicians.

Becoming a musician depends upon the dedication of teachers and parents and the schools that the children attend. I was very fortunate to grow up in Munster, Indiana, where at the time, the string and music theory programs were very strong and well supported by the school boards and administrations. I had many adults take great care to make sure that I had all the instruction, equipment and opportunities I needed.

Being a musician is one of the greatest gifts that a human being could have in his/her lifetime. I am always telling my students, and my own children who are musicians, that no matter what level they take their music to, that their lives will be so enriched and more fulfilling in many ways than if they hadn't stumbled into music to begin with.

Personally speaking, as a professional musician and teacher, my life is fulfilling beyond measure. The chance to sit in the middle of an orchestra, making harmony with dozens of other people there for the same reason fills the soul with sounds and vibrations that can heal many aspects of the challenging lives we all face. Cares and worries about day-to-day living desist when you are in the middle of a beautiful arrangement of sound in camaraderie with others who have their daily challenges to go through. Equally with teaching, when I am responsible for a child at a given point every week, it makes my heart sing to see smiles, hear a little laughter and then hear the passion that they have when they are working on the music. Performing and teaching bring so much joy in life!

I believe that as human beings, we come into this world with joy, a desire to learn and emulate those who are in our world and as time passes, a desire to make the world a better place. We should always take opportunities to share and inspire others into choosing lives that are as rich and fulfilling as ours. I would doubt that there is even one professional musician who hasn't worked with at least one child in developing his/her musical talent. Most often, we bring into the lessons we teach the knowledge and modus operandi that was used to train us. As teachers, we need to constantly assess the methods we are using and the non musical connection we are making to ensure that our students can use what we are teaching and to feel good about themselves as we are teaching so they can absorb all the wisdom and instruction we have to offer. Children whose teachers infuse the lessons with this kind of love and compassion become not only good musicians, but go on to spreading the joy of making music to those with whom they have contact. And the cycle continues.

Laurie Orloff , Author of How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Teen Survival Guide is a professional symphony violist and string teacher in Plano, Dallas and at Greenhill School.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hi, I am Laurie Orloff, a Philharmonic mother and musician, and I can honestly say that I am so grateful to be part of the GDYO family. Sunday, as I walked in towards the end of the Philharmonic's first rehearsal of the season, I heard a very fortissimo passage in Sibelius' 2nd symphony being conducted by James Frank. Tears began welling up in my eyes. My fourteen year old was playing something I didn't play until I was twice his age, and the music was so beautiful and well done, even for sight reading. All those children in the Philharmonic have something special- more than just a left-brain ability to manifest written music into music that is heard. One could tell from the depth and scope of what was actually heard, that each and every child had a very mature understanding of and raw talent for playing music.

In hearing such talent, one can tell so much about an organization. It is evident that Greater Dallas is home to amazing private teachers who are very skilled performers as well as highly skilled motivators of children. Equally, it is obvious that there is an immense amount of dedication on the parents' part to cultivate and nurture a love for music in their children.

Dallas is very lucky as well to have the GDYO family. It truly is a family. When you combine the artistic abilities and supportive guidance of the conductors and coaches and the dedication of the students and parents with the obvious love and nurturing of the very professional staff, I can't think of a family in this broad sense that is more functional, loving and successful in the entire area.

Please take time to come and hear the concerts and to congratulate and appreciate all for their amazing efforts. This organization is going to be one of the biggest highlights in the annals of the history of Greater Dallas.

Laurie Orloff , Author of How to Handle Your Cranky and Stressed Out Parents: A Teen Survival Guide is a professional symphony violist and string teacher in Plano, Dallas and Greenhill School.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra is beginning its 39th Season in August. In thirty-nine years the organization has seen quite a bit of change. In 1972 GDYO was a single orchestra. There was no Wind Symphony, YPO or Flute Choir. The orchestra was maybe 35 students. Now, there are seven ensembles and 425 students.

None of our current students were born. How different is the world?

In 1971 and 1972 the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl. In 2011 the Cowboys will host the Super Bowl in the new stadium in Arlington, TX.

In the early 70’s representatives of 23 western oil companies began negotiations with OPEC to stabilize oil prices. The USS Manatee (AO-58) spilled 1,000 gallons of fuel oil on President Nixon's Western White House beach in San Clemente, California. Today we are watching as BP tries to clean up a mess on the Gulf Coast and oil prices move up and down.

In 1971 Apollo 13 lifts off on it’s third succesful mission. In 1972 President Richard Nixon orders the development of the a Space Shuttle program. Since that time NASA has launched hundreds of space missions but currently struggles with keeping the general public in awe.

Americans were still fighting the Vietnam war. Today our soldiers fight in Afghanstan.

U.S. airlines begin mandatory inspection of passengers and baggage, only a small step as to what it would become today.

In 1971 the South Tower of the World Trade Center is topped out at 1,362 feet, making it the second tallest building in the world. Today it longer exists.

Atari kicked off the first generation of video games with the release of their seminal arcade version of Pong, the first game to achieve commercial success. Today eight out ten homes own an Xbox or Wii.

In 1971 and 1972 UNIX Programmer's Manual is published, Intel releases the world's first microprocessor, the Intel 4004 and Ray Tomlinson sends the first ARPAnet e-mail between host computers. Today we can’t imagine life without our computers, Facebook, iphones and texting.

It is fascinating to look at the past. It shows us how far we have come. But many things have not changed. There are still wars, conflicts, art and amazing music.

The GDYO is a part of the past, the present, and the future. It is a part of time. And all of these students who pass through our doors will also be a part of it. This new season will be fresh and fun, just as each season before it has been. A new set of music, faces and talent.

In less than a month the 39th season begins. We look forward to what this year will bring not only at GDYO but also to the world. We look forward to hearing and seeing how these students learn and grow.