Youth Symphony Winter Concert

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The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras held their Winter Concert on February 13, 2017 at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville, as usual. My son’s orchestra, Preludium, played first. Their two pieces were March of the Meistersingers by Richard Wagner and Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Boy walks with his violin at Tennessee Theater

Our son after playing with his orchestra

The other three orchestras – Philharmonia, Sinfonia and the Youth Chamber – also played that night. The top youth symphony orchestra played on the following Monday, on February 20, along with the Concerto Competition winners. We live one hour away from Knoxville so we excused ourselves from attending the concert on the 20th. The kids love classical music but they get bored by sitting in the audience for more than 45 minutes and these concerts last for at least one hour.  Continue reading »

I did not want to drive for two hours both ways only to sit in the audience and shush them down every two minutes. I know they need the opportunity to practice sitting down and being quiet, but I think we do pretty well by attending our regular concerts when one of them is on stage or the professional concerts for children by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra plus church events. One must draw the line somewhere, otherwise we would be all over the place.

So on the 13th, when our son was on stage, we had a lot of fun taking in the sights and sounds at the Tennessee Theater again. For me, there is no greater joy than to see my children make music. I am proud of their other achievements but there is something about music. I wish I had gone further in my own music efforts as a child and so I naturally want my children to go further than I did. It’s the classic syndrome of a parent’s unfulfilled dreams which get passed onto the children.

My children enjoy music and they hum while they play throughout the day. They even hum while doing their math. Do they complain about having to practice daily? Sure. But they are slowly learning that quitting is not an option and skipping practice is not an option either. If they had to choose, they would probably stick with piano and ditch violin, but I will not give them an out. We have invested too much in this endeavor – it would be a waste.

Therefore, we press on, and participating in orchestra actually helps them enjoy violin more. They get to be with other children and receive that gentle peer pressure from having to keep up with their stand partners. They belong to a group who plays string instruments and I think it helps them stay motivated to practice. By building skills, they build confidence and enjoyment ensues. We look forward to receiving their new music for the spring concert, which will be in May.


Cloudy With A Chance of Music

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The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) regularly schedules concerts for school children. Cloudy with a chance of music was geared toward children in PK-2nd grade. As such, it was very interactive. The conductor guided the children through the program and had a special guest who contributed to the whole program.

The beautiful Tennessee Theater in Knoxville

The beautiful Tennessee Theater in Knoxville

You cannot beat actually being in the audience at the Tennessee Theater, of course, but should you not be able to attend, you can make your own concert by following the Teacher’s Guide provided on the KSO website and by picking out the songs from YouTube – any orchestra will do. Continue reading »

Of course, you will not get the interactive part of the concert, the dialogue between the conductor and the special guest, or between him and the audience. When you stay home, you have limitations. But you can still come pretty close to educating your children as if you had been in a concert hall.

We had a lot of fun and it was worth our time. I must confess, I get too comfortable to drive to Knoxville sometimes, but I remember how much we enjoy these concerts and get into gear, no pun intended. Plus, it is always great to see my last name on the seating chart. I don’t think it is vanity. I think it is simply the excitement of a mom who loves homeschooling.

Maybe my next book should be called “I Am School” and should detail all the ways in which a loving parent can offer her children the stimulation and opportunities very few brick and mortar schools offer these days, for a fraction of the price and time investment. Hmmm….


Orchestra Portraits

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The night of the Gatlinburg wildfires, my children and I were in Knoxville for their last orchestra practice of the year. That was the night we picked up their orchestra portraits and some merchandise we had ordered: a car magnet for me, which says “Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras;” two mascot lamas, and sweatshirts with the orchestra logo and roster.

Girl with violin

With everything going on since the fire, I have barely had time to enjoy these things or to blog about them. A life-changing event like a national disaster sure puts things into perspective. Nevertheless, as things begin to align toward a new normal, we have time and energy to feel the pride of having joined the youth orchestras this year. Continue reading »

I first heard about the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2006, before I became a mom. I met one of the homeschooling families from Sevierville and all their children played the violin in the orchestra. Something came alive inside of me. I made a mental note of it and thought what a great opportunity to experience and learn music this would be for any child.

Boy with violin

A decade later, I am a proud orchestra mom and have a car magnet to show it. I don’t know how you feel about car magnets proclaiming different things like “My son is in the Navy” or “My child is an honor student at Whatever School.”

Personally, I think car magnets encourage others to go for excellence, to attain higher standards, and to perform on TV instead of sitting on the couch watching others perform. I did not purchase my car magnet to brag. I want to inform others about the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras and to inspire parents and children to look into classical music.


My Children Got Into Youth Orchestra

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Last Sunday, we took our children to West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, where the Knoxville Symphony held auditions for their youth orchestra. They have six ensembles and our kids auditioned for the entry level orchestra called Preludium.

Boy and girl at Pearl Harbor Exhibit

Our children at the Pearl Harbor Exhibit inside Ripley’s Aquarium

By Wednesday, I was getting really anxious to hear the results, even though their violin teacher, who is a concert master in Canada, assured me they would get accepted. The question was, also, how they would be placed, as they are two years apart in skills. I knew that KSYO might start another ensemble, for children whose skills are not yet at Preludium level, but nothing was certain.  Continue reading »

Knoxville is a small city, but somehow there are a lot of children playing violin here. I don’t really know the history behind this movement, but it plays right into my own love for the instrument and my desire to have my children exposed to different opportunities.

We were impressed with the auditioning process. After we signed in at a table marked Step 1, we filled out a form for each child at Step 2 – a different table inside this long hall. Then they told us to go into this large classroom and wait until an attendant came to get each of the children at the right time. Our children’s audition times were five minutes apart, so once they got one, they got the other in just a few brief moments.

We arrived more than 30 minutes before their appointed time, so if we waited some it was because of our own precaution. However, we used that time wisely by having them warm up in an adjacent room. I stepped into a filing closet – literally – with each of them and had them do their scale and piece.

The third part of the audition was a sight reading exercise and that was the unknown. It was scary because it counted for 40% of their grade – quite a bit and just as much as the prepared piece. The remaining 20% was the scale.

My daughter played G Major scale two octaves and Etude by Suzuki. My son played G Minor Melodic scale and Gavotte by Martini. His piece was two pages long, so they actually stopped him mid-way and did not let him finish. On the Suzuki CD, this piece takes almost 2 1/2 minutes, so I understand they did not want to hear him play the whole thing. They went through 370+ children in four days!

Our violin teacher also told us judging panels know everything there is to know about a player in about 30 seconds. So we knew they got all the information they needed to analyze our son in half of Gavotte plus his scale.

He got into Preludium and our daughter got into Overture, which is the newly formed ensemble for “the babies” – six-year-olds who can play, but not at Preludium level. Can you imagine the cuteness overload when that group takes the stage?

Well, they are in. Now the fun begins. Driving to Knoxville for rehearsals and concerts, working hard every day with new repertoire, and watching them make new friends. It will be an adventure for sure.


String Camp

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My children attended String Camp for the first time this year. Organized by the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestras, this five-day camp happened at Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville. About 256 string players showed up and they were organized in five orchestras according to their skills and experience.

KSYO String Camp

On the last day of camp, they wore “concert attire” – as you can see, very relaxed atmosphere.

Since my children had no orchestra experience, they were placed in the entry-level orchestra called Prelude. Erin Archer is the conductor of Preludium, the equivalent of this entry-level for the regular youth orchestra, and so she directed Prelude during String Camp. They played Over the Rainbow and the main theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. The theme of the camp was “That’s Entertainment!” and so all the repertoire was from movies and musicals. Continue reading »

This string camp is highly recommended for players who want to audition for youth orchestras at the end of August. I did not think I would want to start driving weekly to Knoxville again, but we signed up for the camp for a fun and educational summer activity. I also thought this would help the kids with their morale. They have been a little down about their violin experience and have been telling me how much more they enjoy the piano.

Boy and girl with music T-shirts

Wednesday is music T-shirt day. It was fun shopping for these shirts for them.

I figured a bit of ensemble playing and seeing other kids their age play would help. What do you know? It did. Not only do they want to audition for and hopefully join the orchestra in the fall, my son actually got inspired to appreciate the sound of cellos. On the last day of camp, he came to me and said, “I think I would like to learn how to play the cello.” I told him I was not opposed to it and we can talk to several people in Knoxville about finding the right teacher and instrument.

KSYO string camp costume day

Thursday is costume day. So I took Princess Elsa and Master Ninja to String Camp that day.

The string camp consists of two hours, Monday-Thursday: rehearsals, activities, snacks, music appreciation, workshops. On Friday, they stay there from 9am through 3:45pm. After rehearsals and team-building exercises, they get a pizza lunch and a movie (a musical). Then, it’s time for tuning and for joining all the other orchestra levels to rehearse Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – a camp tradition. The little kids just play open string G half notes if they get lost in that piece. Nobody is worried about it. The bigger kids usually carry the melody as first violins.

At 2:30pm, the concert begins. It is such a glorious celebration of music and children. We parents of course are busy filming and blinking back tears of pride and joy. String Camp was a great experience for us and I highly recommend it. If you live near a city with an orchestra, you might want to inquire if they offer youth symphony opportunities.

Here’s hoping that my children will get into KSYO this Fall!


Very Young People’s Concert

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For the first time, we attended a Very Young People’s Concert by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. It was wonderful. We plan to go again next year.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra tuning up before the concert

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra tuning up before the concert

We had tickets for it last year, but inclement weather canceled the concert altogether and we got our money back. So we were happy the weather cooperated this year.  Continue reading »

Tickets cost $8 per person. I made the reservations myself and when they asked me for the name of the school I said Cardinal Point Academy. I do not have our school registered as such officially anywhere. I do not need to. This is America, the land of all possibilities… If you want to have a school, you have a school. The laws allow you do do that.

Cardinal Point Academy sign

The sign on our seats, showing the name of our homeschool

It was an interesting experience to see the name of our school on the seats reserved for us. The entire Tennessee Theater was organized this way, and I would like to congratulate the organizers for doing it.

Ceiling detail in the Tennessee Theater

Ceiling detail in the Tennessee Theater

We have attended other concerts at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and I have never seen labels on seats. The ushers are happy to help in both locations, but it feels so nice to visually see where everybody is situated.

Boy and girl at the Tennessee Theater

My children before the concert, inside the Tennessee Theater

This particular concert’s theme was “Let’s Tell a Story” and the mascot, Picardy Penguin, showed up on the screen, to teach and entertain. My kids loved Picardy, by the way.

A talented vocalist demonstrated how to make something sound funny, dramatic etc., or how to express nervousness in song. Sorry, her name escapes me.

They had a theme song, “Music Can Make You Laugh or Cry” and we all sang that in the beginning and at the end. They brought in nine modern dancers for Peter and The Wolf which added to the experience. Personally, I don’t care for that piece of music, so it was nice to have something else to focus on. Sorry, Prokofiev!

If you are a teacher, homeschool or otherwise, you receive a CD and a packet with information and lesson plans to educate the children before and after the concert. All in all, this goes down in history as the best field trip of this school year. So far at least.