|Me with my students at the symphony, Hanna Smolan (left) and Alysia Armijo (right).|
By Elizabeth Hellstern
Last week I got to attend the first concert of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, The French Connection. It was beautiful; I got goosebumps, and I sighed with dreamy melancholy during Erik Satie's "Gymnopedia," a piece that was dedicated to the late Dr. Pat Curry. My face got flushed over the loud brass parts (as when we sang the national anthem.) During "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Bolero," I felt like dancing around.
I guess music is very visceral for me.
I used to think that I was supposed to be reflecting and listening along a prescribed theme-line, a certain something that everyone else experienced when hearing classical music. I didn't realize that everyone's inner world is completely different, and that part of the beauty is letting the music take me where it will.
It's extremely enjoyable for me to be able to watch the musicians as they play. During "Bolero", I caught sight of a young violist, who was completely transformed by the music. She was dreamily swaying, her face caught up in the swells of the music. I knew that she had been practicing that piece for months, that she was "at work" up there on the stage, and yet, she was allowing the music to be a pleasure to her instead of a chore.
I loved watching the pianist play "Rhapsody in Blue," as she threw her fluffy blond hair around and used her fingers to convey her own unique phrasing. She practically skipped to the piano bench, so excited to be channeling her inner life into the notes. She played a piece that everyone knows, that United Airlines has even used for its commercials. Yet, Sara Buechner is so in touch with her difference, that she played with a touch that people haven't heard before.
Yes, the concert was something special, something that could never be repeated exactly in the same way.
And we were all there together, experiencing it as one audience, in our own special way. We were experiencing the human condition. After the concert, I talked with people. A retired faculty member remembered Dr. Curry, and the special way that he had mentored her career as a voice professor. Someone remembered her first trip to Paris, and the excitement of young love. And some of my students were there, young people so excited to be part of the audience for the first time, experiencing music like this with a group, feeling exhilaration and joy as they watched beauty unfold.
This concert was a little different for me, because I heard about so many other people's experience. It was more meaningful to hear what was going through their minds.
It's the beauty of personal connection—everybody heard the same thing, but we all went to different places, together.