In our small circle of acquaintances here in Southwest Florida, we are rather myopic. Everywhere we go, it seems that retailers, restaurants, cultural events are hyperaware of our demographic category: retirees who have money to spend and time up for grabs.
I love this. I get special rates and discounts. I get to hear the soundtrack of my life piped through every loudspeaker in every public space. Shop people are extremely accepting of me carrying my little dog in places I would not be able to take her, if I were back up north. There are folks ready to help me if I happen to need a bag toted out to my car. There are about a million things to do each day – classes to take, art shows, festivals, gallery walks, bike trails, boats to ride on, great fishing, gorgeous beaches, nature parks. Oh yes. It is pretty darned special for those of us who have worked hard all our adult lives and are lapping up all the goodies available to fill our days in relative comfort and fulfillment.
What we do not see much of is KIDS. Honestly, I had heard years ago that there just weren’t that many KIDS around here. Seemed true. I didn’t see them…..at least, in any number.
Then. My love of music and devotion to our wonderful Charlotte Symphony Orchestra opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed. Because our new Maestro – Raffaele Ponti – made it clear from the get-go that he wanted an educational initiative, this year the CSO created an outreach program aimed at school age children and I asked “Can I help?” Hint: do NOT ask that question in Punta Gorda unless you are prepared to dive in!
Now, during “Symphony Week” – the week before the monthly CSO concert – I have the privilege of accompanying Maestro Ponti to two elementary schools where he works with the teachers to conduct a music/art class. He introduces the music, talks a bit about the composer and invites the kids to create art while they listen to the music. He’s been using Beethoven’s Fifth and Stravinsky’s Firebird to prepare them for the special Youth Concert in May, when those works will be performed. The music begins with a resounding DA DA DA DAAAAA. Dot Dot Dot Line. Ah, Beethoven! And the kids begin to draw, paint, mark, dab, whatever they have for tools on the blank paper in front of them. It’s crazy good! Everyone is exhilarated.
Then, on Saturday, during the rehearsal for this week’s concert, there are kids who participate in what we call “Musical Chairs” – they sit in an instrumental section of their interest while the Maestro works the rehearsal. What a trip! Sitting on the stage with professional musicians, a brilliant conductor – as music is brought from practice to performance level. I would have LOVED that when I was a kid.
So, back to the premise that there are no (few) kids in our area. There are THOUSANDS!!! The public school system boasts music and art programs and teachers (wow, are they dedicated) who show up every day to open up the world for their charges. Now, I have the opportunity to share in their experience and have my own world broadened in the deal. That’s what I call a win/win.
Click the link below to see a video of our Friday morning classes with Maestro.