December 18, 2014
At 10:15 on a Thursday morning, the orchestra classroom at Albemarle Road Middle School is filled with chatter. Small children, some holding very large instruments, wriggle in their seats as their teacher, Mr. Logan Hughes, interrupts class. They have a special delivery.
For months, the Charlotte Symphony's director of education, Chris Stonnell, has collected instrument donations from across the community, storing them in his office, having them inspected and repaired and ready for this moment. His car is packed with black music cases stacked on top of each other, protecting shiny trombones, cellos, violins, violas, and even a bass guitar and amps.
Albemarle Road Middle School Principal Toni Perry says donations like this mean everything to the students. "We have some amazing students that want opportunities like this - to be in band and orchestra - and don't have the opportunity to do so because they can't get instruments," Perry says. "This [donation] is going to really grow our program and help us to be able to give our students the education they deserve."
Since April of 2012, the Charlotte Symphony has accepted community donations of unused or slightly damaged instruments, refurbished them to working order, and distributed them to local schools in need. Since Instruments for Kids began, we have donated approximately 65 instruments.
Looking ahead, Albemarle Road's music instructors hope to start up Jazz and Pop bands and even a guitar program. This donation is helping to make these goals a reality.
Following the stop at Albemarle Road, Stonnell and School Programs Manager Phoebe Lustig made a second donation to Sugar Creek Charter School, providing the school its first eight instruments.
We are always grateful for instrument donations from the community and are in special need of full-sized stringed instruments. For more information on the Instruments for Kids program, click here.
Post written by Virginia Brown
December 10, 2014
In January's performance of Don Quixote, Principal Violist Ben Geller will bow alongside guest cellist Julian Schwarz, representing his loyal, bumbling sidekick in the Strauss work. Here, Geller, who joined the Charlotte Symphony in January 2014, shares stories (along with a sense of humor) about studying Suzuki as a child, his custom-made viola, and love of naps ... and chicken.
Does your instrument have an interesting story?
My viola was custom made for me in 2007 by Theodore Skreko of Indianapolis Violins, modeled after the Breacian master Gaspar da Salo. My bow is also fantastic and made by the incomparable Matthew Wehling from St. Paul, Minnesota.
How did you get introduced to the viola?
I'd flirted with viola a few times in different ensembles in high school, but I fully committed from the violin the summer after my undergraduate sophomore year at Butler University when I studied with Michael Isaac Strauss. I really haven't looked back since.
If you weren't a professional musician, what would you be?
I've never had a real plan B. Maybe acting? Or something in ceramics...I loved throwing pottery in high school. I'd probably just farm somewhere in Canada.
How do you mentally prepare for a performance?
Naps. Also, long baths. Seriously though, the only way to prepare mentally for a performance is by learning the music inside and out. Once I've made technical decisions about every note from informed knowledge of the score with a few recordings for reference, the performance takes care of itself. Also, deep breaths and I try not to slouch.
What kinds of music do you listen to when you are not practicing or performing?
Jazz, Prog Rock, Classic R&B and Hip Hop, and whatever is on NPR or WDAV.
Where can we find you when you're not rehearsing or performing?
Swimming at MAC, biking around on my '89 Schwinn, playing Frisbee somewhere, but I'm probably just practicing at home.
What's one thing you can't live without?
Oxygen. Also, food. Specifically chicken.
Which composer or composition most inspires you?
Bela Bartok. He combined mathematic formulas found in nature, folk music he researched from all over Hungary and Eastern Europe, and modern art music techniques to bring the listener and the player a wild and interesting experience. He's one of my very favorites.
Are there any other musicians in your family?
I come from a very musical family. Everyone played something at some point, however my cousin Noah Geller (Concertmaster of the Kansas City Symphony) and I are the only professional orchestral musicians.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Suzuki class sometime in the late 80s. I had a cardboard pizza circle that I was supposed to stand on properly in designated foot outlines that was much more fun to throw like a Frisbee.
Post written by Virginia Brown