People do not need to learn how to like classical music. Rather, whether intentionally or accidentally, people are taught to not like classical music. Which is, of course, nonsense.
Just go to a concert with some children and watch them gallop in their seats to the “William Tell Overture,” pretend to glide gracefully across the water to “The Swan” or stomp and glower to “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”
Really. Go. You have two opportunities this week alone: 6 p.m. Wednesday at Walk Festival Hall in Teton Village, when the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra performs a program titled “A Day in Paradise,” and noon Thursday at Teton County Library, when tubaist JáTtik Clark and trombonists Steve Norrell of the orchestra brass section, and trombonist Heather Miller of the Grand Teton Music Festival staff, show how their instruments work in an “All About Brass” demonstration.
Tickets to both shows are free for students. Adult tickets cost $15 for the orchestra event. The library event is free for adults.
Stephanie Rhodes Russell, the festival’s new associate conductor, will lead the band for Wednesday’s concert, the one time this summer the entire orchestra will participate in the family series.
“It is natured-themed,” Rhodes Russell said of the program, in keeping with the theme of the festival’s 58th season. “We will guide listeners through a day in Jackson Hole in music.”
The day starts with “Morning Mood” from Edvard Grieg’s first “Peer Gynt” suite. Then it’s time to take the dog for a walk (accompanied by George Gershwin’s “Walking the Dog” from the movie “Shall We Dance”) along a river (Bedrich Smetena’s “The Moldau”) and into a garden (Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from “The Nutcracker”) where a bee buzzes (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and other more exotic creatures (James Newton Howard’s music from the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) undertake some raucous shenanigans (Gioachino Rossini’s “March of the Swiss Soldiers”). A sudden storm whips up and interrupts the revelry (the allegro movement from Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symhpony,” “Symphony No. 6”) and sends everyone home, but the clouds pass and night falls and the moon rises, glimmering on the tranquil river (Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”).
You don’t need a narrator for the music to tell its tale — and if it tells a tale that’s different from the sketch made up above, that’s just fine. In fact, that’s the point: Music can paint pictures, evoke feelings, lead a receptive listener to fantastic places and even be a blast to dance and move to. Kids know this naturally. It’s adults who need to be reminded.
On top of the thrill of the musical journey, there is nothing like sitting in front of a full symphony orchestra. Its powers far surpass even the best home sound system, and it can be fun trying to identify which character or mood or element of the scene is being represented by which instrument or instruments. It’s not always easy. Voices can blend together to make completely different sounds, just the right ones that fit the composer’s needs.
Rhodes Russell knows how important these kinds of concerts are. A lot kids don’t get the chance to experience a live orchestra.
“I am a big believer in education in multiple respects,” she said earlier this year.
And music education has become a big part of her career. Fluent in four languages — English, Russian, French and Italian — she spent a year in Moscow as a Fulbright Scholar focusing on Russian repertoire and teaching Russian diction for nonnative singers.
“I’m delving into German now,” she said, in preparation for her European conducting debut with an opera company in Stuttgart. “I want to run rehearsals in German, want to show that I am there to meet [the orchestra musicians] where they are and not for them to accommodate me. I want to show that respect to other cultures, other people, and language is one of the best ways we can do that.”
She is also a founder, with her four sisters, and board chairwoman of the nonprofit Women’s Artistic Leadership Initiative.
“Our aim is to take super talented musicians and artists — we work with all fields of arts, film, design, graphic arts, theater — and we focus on some of the business side of things that are easy to miss but that are so crucial,” she said.
But it all starts with exposure, which in Rhodes Russell’s case, came from her grandfather, who taught band at Ricks College (now Brigham Young University, Idaho), and her mother, who taught voice and got her started on piano.
“A Day in Paradise” starts at 5 p.m. with an “instrument petting zoo,” where attendees can get up close to violins and oboes, timpani and tubas and maybe even try to get a sound out of some of them.
So parents, be warned: There’s always the possibility that a visit with the Festival Orchestra is the first step down the winding path of becoming a musician. ￼