By George Basler
Just when you start to despair about the next generation, something comes along to renew your faith.
That’s what happened to me this past Saturday (Feb. 22) at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center. The event was the annual Broome County Music Educators Association’s All-County Music Festival, which featured student musicians from school districts across the county.
First, let me make a confession. On a normal Saturday I would have been nowhere near the Anderson Center. The only reason I came was because the daughter of a family friend was playing clarinet in the band.
But, once there, I was glad I came. While I’m sure the student musicians and singers weren’t perfect, they sounded pretty darn good to my untrained ear. I found the whole event invigorating, and the dedication of the students praiseworthy.
Three different ensembles performed Saturday: grades five and six orchestra, grades seven through nine chorus and grades 10-12 band. The association will follow up with two more concerts, on March 15 and 22, featuring other ensembles.
Students work for months with music teachers in their respective schools to get ready for the performance. They then come together for two marathon rehearsals with their guest conductors on Friday evenings and Saturdays before the concert.
How marathon are the rehearsals? Friday’s ran four hours, with a dinner break of pizza and Subway sandwiches. Saturday’s began at 9 a.m. for the 3 p.m. concert.
The selections on Saturday weren’t easy ones. For example, one piece played by the fifth and sixth grade orchestra was a march from Carmen by George Bizet while the seventh through ninth chorus tackled the Gloria from Missa Solemnis K. 139 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I was impressed.
Another nice thing was that the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater was packed, albeit mostly with family and friends. Still, it was good to see the turnout.
Obviously an event such as the festival doesn’t just happen. It requires long hours of work by music teachers to prepare the students and do planning work. Teachers can take a much-deserved bow and know the audience was applauding them too.
Broome County taxpayers also deserve some credit. Nationally, tough budget times have caused some schools to shutter arts programs, but our local schools, while making trims, seem to have avoided draconian cuts. This happened only because communities have been willing to pass budgets each year with these programs.
So I guess you could call this posting a love letter to the community.
Near the end of Saturday’s concert, Dr. Christian Bernhard, an associate music professor at SUNY-Fredonia and one of the three guest conductors, thanked parents for their participation and asked them “to keep up the good work.”
I say “amen” to that.