All students are told they have to participate in their school band and orchestra concerts as part of their grade. Miss the concert, get a bad grade (the same as missing the final exam in any class). Professional musicians show up to play concerts because it's their job, but they take the job in the first place because they love to perform. Ever heard the saying "love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life"? For musicians, this is even more exciting because what we do is called "playing" not "working"! And boy do we love to play!
Every year, teachers remind their students to attend some professional concerts. For some, that may mean buying tickets to the LA Philharmonic, LA Opera, Pacific Symphony, or international orchestras and soloists when they come to town. But for others, that may not be financially feasible. Those tickets are expensive, you have to travel pretty far to get to the venues, and may leave you feeling overwhelmed by the entire experience. Any one of these factors may, ultimately, turn people off from attending more concerts in the future.
But did you know that there are dozens of community orchestras, choirs and bands right here in Los Angeles that you can see for free or for a nominal donation? And these groups contain many of the same musicians that play in the "big" orchestras and some even record movie soundtracks. The groups are more accessible, the music selections are from the same repertoire, and the take-away for our kids is still the same wonderful experience of live music!
As a serious music student, I was "brainwashed" to think that the only worthwhile gig was in a professional, top-tier, orchestra (like the NY Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera, or St Paul Chamber Orchestra), and anything less wasn't worthy of my efforts. What I quickly discovered upon graduation was that the "real" jobs were few and far between, and those that dedicated themselves to playing dozens of auditions every year were the ones who won those positions. For every person who wins an oboe seat, there were 10 more waiting in the wings. It's a tough life, and for many of us, playing auditions isn't a substitute for actually performing.
Community Orchestras may not be internationally recognized, they may not make recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, but they do get together once a week to practice (for free) for the sheer joy of playing the music and giving concerts (also often for free). When you attend a community orchestra concert (San Fernando Symphony, Moorpark Symphony, LA Winds -- the groups I mention monthly in my newsletter), look at the people on stage. None are being paid. They are there because they love music. They love sharing music. They love the audience.
Support a local ensemble by attending a concert, paying for the ticket (know that your ticket price goes to running the orchestra, renting the theater, purchasing the music you hear in the concert, paying local composers to write original music for the ensemble, bringing in soloists for concertos) and applauding as loud as you can.
Students need to understand that music is a lifelong passion for musicians -- professional and amateur. Many people you see on stage have a "day job" to support their music habit. Others rely on these concerts to be heard so they might be hired by someone willing to pay them for another performance. But money is not the motivator for musicians, and if it becomes that, they lose something...
What students need to see is that musicians find any opportunity they can to perform. Whether that is in a community orchestra, a professional orchestra or in small chamber ensembles to entertain themselves on a Wednesday evening. Many musicians actually get together during their days off to play duets at each others homes!
Consider attending one concert each semester. Let me know if you're coming to one that I'm involved in: the kids can experience the fun of meeting musicians and seeing the view from onstage.
How to attend a concert:
Visit the website of any group you intend to see in order to purchase tickets. There's usually a way to purchase online, but they will always provide the phone number of the box office. Many local groups will offer free or discounted tickets, so ask about your particular situation (seniors, students, family). Whenever I am involved in a concert that provides limited free tickets to the musicians, I will offer them to my students first!
Get your student excited about the music they are about to hear! Visit YouTube to get an idea of what you're about to hear. Learn about the composers and listen to other pieces by them.
Make it a special occasion! Get dressed up, do something fun together before the concert, and enjoy the atmosphere of a night at the symphony.
Remember audience etiquette: applaud at the end of the entire piece (not in between movements), turn off and put away your cell phones (it might be nice to disconnect for a couple of hours), and don't talk or shuffle your program during the performance. No flash photography, and in most cases, any recording is not allowed at all.
After the concert, if I'm still on stage, make your way toward the front of the auditorium to say hello! I love to introduce my students to my colleagues, especially since I never stop talking about all of you!