We recently went to Jones Hall to enjoy the Cameron Symphony Explorers Concerts. Since Dad plays cello and double bass and we put an emphasis on music in the home, we have been to the symphony many times in the kids’ lives. Plus, we regularly play classical music and learn about significant composers. But, we had not yet experienced the Houston Symphony’s educational outreach programs so this was a first. The verdict? If you get the chance, you must go.
The first thing that struck me was the finely honed organization of the venue. Homeschool groups, private schools and public schools were all represented so there was a mix of carpools, buses and personal transportation, each group gathering to await seating. The coordinators had a list and had seating prearranged so there was no confusion. We were seated promptly and efficiently. This is no small feat with such a large group of children.
Next, the performance was outstanding. This was not a dialed-in performance but a magnificent effort on the part of the musicians and the conductor, Robert Franz, who is Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony. Maestro Franz led the musicians skillfully while engaging the children in music education mixed with some science.
This leads to the overall presentation which, again, was phenomenal. The theme today was weather and Maestro Franz did an excellent job in relating similarities between clouds and pitch. He discussed the three types of clouds and where they are located in the sky from lowest to highest. Then he compared that with instruments from low to high. He challenged the children in attendance to think about the highest, lowest and middle-pitched instruments and then played excerpts featuring all three. Additionally, music relating to water and storms were featured for a riveting performance that fostered an appreciation for music in the children.
Questions from the audience were encouraged and answered thoroughly and with some humor. While this program was designed for the kids, there was certainly plenty for the adults in the audience to enjoy also. If I could give any suggestion about how to improve the experience it would be to have a program, if only online, of all the pieces that were performed so it can be previewed and discussed before the performance and reviewed afterward.
Anyone who has an opportunity to attend a Houston Symphony educational outreach program should definitely go. Even if you do not get to one of the educational programs, taking the time to check out their schedule and attending one of their regular performances is also well worth the effort. View their online calendar at http://www.houstonsymphony.org/calendar/ and you can contact them by mail at Houston Symphony, 615 Louisiana Street, Suite 102, Houston, TX 77002 or via phone at (713) 224-4240.