Sound of Charlotte Blog

Take Action for Vibrant Arts! A Plea from the Past and the Present

Originally Posted: August 2010

On Sunday, Dennis Scholl, the Vice President for Arts for the Knight Foundation, called the Charlotte community to action. Those who love culture and this city have "taken a big step toward fostering a creative environment by making a significant investment in its arts infrastructure," he wrote in The Charlotte Observer. The new Levine Center for the Arts, which includes the Knight Theater, the new Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, is an extraordinary addition to the city's cultural facilities a set of architectural jewels.
Scholl congratulated us for investing in the arts infrastructure, but he challenged us to "redouble" our efforts. "You have a plethora of world-class buildings that now need to be filled with world-class programming," he wrote. (Read more:

The plea to fund programs as well as buildings is not new. In 1963, the then-new Music Director of the Charlotte Symphony, Richard Cormier, addressed the Charlotte Rotary Club, issuing the same challenge:
"If we are to maintain a vigorous, vital cultural life in our cities, we must think not only of buildings, but of people artists, actors, musicians, writers, performers, teachers, students, philosophers, and administrators in every area of the cultural spectrum.... The big problem, as I scarcely need tell you, is money. Money not merely for theaters, concert halls, and museum buildings, but money to develop the public in its role as patrons and appreciators of the products of an artistic civilization....We must come to accept the arts as a new community responsibility."

Nearly half a century later, we still need to hear those words. The Charlotte community must demand and support excellent culture: "fight for vibrant arts programming that engages the community and brings it inside these incredible structures to have an equally compelling cultural experience," Scholl wrote.
The Charlotte Symphony is ready to do its part. New this season, the Symphony launches KnightSounds, a set of three concerts that aim to fill the new Knight Theater with "vibrant arts programming." We challenge the community to be a part of this process. Come join us!

For more about KnightSounds, visit /concerts-tickets/knight-sounds/

Tagged as Culture, knight foundation, Levine Center for the Arts, Money.

Creating Citizens One Note at a Time

Originally Posted: August 2010

Outside the sun is scorching, in spite of the breeze that blows through the Converse College campus.

Fortunately, though, Twichell Auditorium is air-conditioned, and the young brass players of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra are oblivious to the August heat as they work through a difficult passage of Grieg's Norwegian Dance.

The musicians of the CSYO are attending the orchestra's annual summer camp, sponsored by The Symphony Guild, gearing up for a new season of music-making. Mornings are dedicated to full orchestra rehearsals; after lunch, the students divide into sections, led by members of the Charlotte Symphony.
Last Thursday afternoon in the lobby of Twichell Auditorium, CSO Principal Tubist David Mills was warning the trumpets to make way for the horns: "There's something that comes right after you, so hit that note and get out of the way." Inside the auditorium, CSO Principal Timpanist Leo Soto was teaching a student about the power of pianissimo. With his ear down, his whole body alert to sound, Leo caused a magical shimmer to arise from the drums. The effervescent sound made the hairs on my arm stand up, and demonstrated to his young protégé that you can command as much attention with that hush as with a resounding thunder.

The appointment of Gustavo Dudamel as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic has brought spectacular national attention to Venezuela's youth orchestra system and the philosophy of its founder José Antonio Abreu. Abreu's system is building amazing orchestras, but he aspires to accomplish much more: He maintains that orchestras build community, create good citizens, because the varied members of an orchestra come together for the common good to perform great music.

At youth orchestra camp, the members of the CSYO are experiencing this first-hand, all day, every day. "It's great doing music all day," said flutist Sarah Sullivan, a rising senior at North Meck High School, earlier that afternoon. "You'd think you'd get tired of it, but it's really fun. It's really a relaxed atmosphere everyone is open and willing to get to know each other."

And the students are doing more than music all day. They're getting music lessons, but they're also getting lessons in life. Like David Mills's comment to the trumpets: Be respectful of others' space and time. Or Leo Soto's demonstration: Listen, focus, be precise, and remember that you do not need to yell to be heard.

"In sectionals and in the full orchestra, you realize that you have to listen," oboist Michael Smith, a rising senior at Providence High School, told me during a break from sectionals. "It's a great mantra for a community, because if you're not listening to other people in a community, how can ideas be shared?"

"They say music is the universal language," Elizabeth Honeyman agreed. Elizabeth is a junior at Peabody a CSYO alum who has come back to lead the oboes. "But you have to learn how to work with others; you have to learn when to lead and when to follow. You connect to everyone else. What you do on your own is not nearly so important as what you do when you link into everyone else."

Not bad.

And when these students "link into everyone else," they look for unity among the differences, another CSYO alum, Loren Taylor, added.

"It's like a family; if there is any conflict, it's like sibling rivalry. Coming together like a family is what makes people in the youth orchestra better citizens contribute to society. We're building something together. Even if you're in a lower chair, your part is still contributing to the whole."

Meg Whalen is the Director of Public Relations and Community Engagement.

Tagged as CSO Musicians, CSYO, Education, El Sistema, grieg, Gustavo Dudamel, High School, Jose Antonio Abreu, Life Lessons, Symphony Guild.