The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence. ~Denis Waitley
While the audience has the opportunity to enjoy a spirited evening of classical music in small medieval churches for six days, the Young Virtuosi Classical Music Festival we sponsor each July in the south of France is much more than just evening performances. The logistics rival the military invasion of a small country and the coordination of volunteers is a daunting task.
Yet somehow, it all comes together and everyone seems to enjoy themselves; the audience, volunteers, sponsors, festival leaders, and of course the musicians. But every massive project of this size and calibre presents numerous learning opportunities, especially for young musicians. They have the opportunity to not only play some of the world’s best-loved classical music (Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Paganini, Ravel, Debussy), but to also learn about the art of performance (how to engage the audience, where to stand for solos, the use of facial expressions, and most importantly bringing the notes on a page to life).
Here’s an example of excellent music and great audience engagement in a violin and viola duo of Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia.
This year we all agreed that tour goal of each concert would be for the audience to feel better going out than they did coming in! In other words, it’s not about the musicians, it’s all about the audience.
Lessons in Responsibility
The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up. ~John C. Maxwell
This year we have two different age groups at our festival, 23-28 year old semi-professional musicians desperately seeking full-time employment opportunities, and 15-17 year olds dealing with music lessons and practice, high school studies, and “teenage social disorientation”.
What is fascinating to watch (and difficult to deal with) is the different levels of responsibility displayed by the different groups. The semi-professional musicians are disciplined and dedicated to their craft. They eat quickly in order to get back to practicing before the concerts. They only drink after the concert, never before, unless it’s a day off! The seem to enjoy the entire process, practice, being in each other’s company, performing on stage, mingling with the audience after the performances. And they are extremely open to feedback and suggestions for improvement, especially tips and tricks on “stage presence” and performing.
It’s amazing how sharp your focus and commitment to succeed when your stomach is empty and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from!
The younger group, on the other hand, is not quite certain how to behave. Is this a holiday, social time, a festival, a time to show off my stuff? Their personal “responsibility meter” is set on low; they show up late for rehearsals, oversleep in the morning, leave music and clothes scattered about, are last on the bus to leave for the concerts, and seem to have a very valid excuse for everything that goes wrong.
One of our strategies is to get the older musicians to share some life lessons so we encourage lots of stories around the lunch and dinner table. It seems that young people tend to listen and accept suggestions and input from these older musicians. Certainly more than they do from parents or adults. Having such a mixed group is good for peer-to-peer learning and having role models to learn from.
And when they get on stage, the younger ones put their learning to good use and perform brilliantly. Here’s a trio performance of a piece by Luigi Boccherini:
I just wish I had this level of training, performance opportunities and coaching when I was a teenager.
See the review of LEVERAGE in The Economist (January 9, 2014).
John also writes thriller novels: novels.johnrchildress.com