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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Growing Up Immersed in Music

By Mary Catherine Rendleman Edwards

Last week, while driving home from work, I heard the L'Arlessiane Suite by George Bizet.  It took me back to the first time that I heard and played the piece with the Charlotte Youth Symphony (as the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra was called then).  The memories came flooding back.   I remember being enthralled with the huge sound of the full orchestra that I was part of: the beautiful flute solo wafting over my head, the mesmerizing harp arpeggios, and the brass in the fiery last movement that was so exciting.  I smiled as I drove, remembering how proud we were of that performance in 1965. 

Youth orchestra rehearsals were some of the best times of my high school years.  On Saturday mornings, my sister Ruth and I would join our carpool, which frequently included Ann Cooper (cellist) and Robert Allen, (bassoonist), on the ride over to Piedmont Jr. High (as it was called then) for weekly rehearsals.  Most teenagers looked forward to sleeping in on Saturdays, but we cherished the comradeship we developed with peers from our high school as well as others from across the region.  In those days, we enjoyed playing under the baton of Charlotte Symphony Music Director Richard Cormier.

Margaret Tait and her younger sister Kathryn drove up from Rock Hill, S.C. for the rehearsals.  I became friends with students from South Mecklenburg and Garinger High Schools, among others.  One time in the parking lot after the rehearsal we crammed a cello, a bassoon, a violin, a viola, a clarinet, and four people into a Volkswagen Bug just to see if we could. (We did not attempt to drive home like that!)  It was always sad when the season came to a close with the last concert of the year. Many of us played during the summer, winning scholarships to Transylvania Music Camp, Governor's School in Winston Salem, and Eastern Music Festival.  The North Carolina School for the Arts opened up, and quite a few Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra students migrated to Winston-Salem for the inaugural year in 1965, including my sister Ruth. 

Playing in the youth orchestra and hearing performances by the Charlotte Symphony, I became addicted to the sound of a full symphony orchestra, and it became my life for many years. This past Friday, I took all of my Eastway Middle School Orchestra members to a dress rehearsal of the Charlotte Symphony.  Today in class I asked them what their favorite part of the trip was, and one after the other in so many words said, "The sound of the orchestra" or "the loud parts when everybody was playing."  I know what they felt.  There is nothing like it in this world.  Thank you, Charlotte Symphony for the inspiring performance!

A former Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra member, Mary Catherine Rendleman Edwards has enjoyed a carreer as a professional violinist for over forty years. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Boston University and a Master of Music from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor.  A Salisbury resident, she drives to Charlotte daily to teach orchestra at Eastway and McClintock Middle Schools.
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Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, CSYO, Education.

Creating Citizens One Note at a Time

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.
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Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, CSYO, Education.

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