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Players give Kauai keiki sound advice


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POSTED: Monday, December 01, 2008

It had been close to 15 years since the Honolulu Symphony last performed on Kauai. That's way too many in my book and just one of the reasons that last week's symphony tour of Kauai was so meaningful, both for the musicians and the communities we visited.

Our full-orchestra tour included more than a dozen in-school performances as well as free community concerts. It marked the first chance that the current generation of Kauai schoolchildren has had to experience an orchestra concert or meet a symphony musician.

Many of the kids didn't know anyone who made a living as a musician, and we hope we helped broaden their horizons about career possibilities—not necessarily inspiring them to become musicians, but to think about the many different routes they can pursue. Hopefully, the tour “;opened a window”; and planted the idea that each child could pursue a talent or curiosity and turn it into a successful career.

Across Kauai the children's sense of wonderment and intense curiosity about the music-making process was inspiring. From the standing-room-only concerts to the packed school cafeterias, you could tell our performances were an eagerly awaited opportunity.

Many of the schoolchildren were especially interested—and a little surprised—to learn how much practice and how many years it takes to reach the career level of a symphony musician. They wanted to know everything about playing in an orchestra. You could see the theoretical ideas learned in class quickly coming to life. The abstract had become real.

  Our percussion ensemble performed several traditional pieces, then veered into more creative space by performing with things found in kitchens. Cereal boxes, pots and pans, packages of ramen noodles—they make great music, too. The kids' surprise as we moved from traditional to off-the-wall was priceless. Our “;kitchen piece”; demonstrated the possibilities of making music everywhere—and maybe a new way to see the world around them.

In total the symphony performed four full orchestra concerts, two for school groups during the day and two for the community in the evening. The crowds, including people of all ages, gave us an incredibly enthusiastic welcome. Everyone sensed that this was a rarity. Many expressed hope that it wouldn't take another 15 years to happen again.

  These tours were possible thanks to a federal grant administered through the state Department of Human Services. Touring the neighbor islands is an essential means for symphony musicians, as educators, to reach underserved communities and support teachers in classrooms. It's an opportunity to give everyone in Hawaii, no matter where they live, the chance to experience symphonic music and expand their awareness about the music-making process.

During our tours we perform in cafeterias, community centers, school gymnasiums and performance halls—just about anywhere that has enough seats. You'd be surprised at how good the acoustics can be in a school cafeteria. And the terrific reception we received across Kauai made those acoustics even better.