when young musicians play scelsi . . .

at seven fifteen, f2fb friend #271 sheryl nussbaum and her crew were expecting one hundred preteen musicians.  it was the final rehearsal before the blowout, warmly anticipated winter festival 2011.  the gym at washburne school had been converted into a concert space for two orchestras and two choirs.  sheryl directs the orchestras, amy is in charge of the choirs.  they are assisted by aj keller and ben nadel.  and me? i was put to work guarding the halls and telling kids they couldn’t just throw their backpacks down on the floor and run, they had to put them next to the wall so as to not create a fire hazard.

“USE YOUR TEACHER VOICE!”  sheryl prescribed.  i think i have more of a “random adult who hopes that you don’t go home and tell your parents that i yelled at you and then i get sued” voice.

after the musicians were corraled into place, the sixth grade musicians tuned their instruments.  it was determined that fully four had lost their music–one young man his attention span, cello bridge AND his music.  nonetheless, sheryl was determined they should start with the first two pieces in the program.

i complimented the students--i said that generally natura renovatur by giaconta scelsi is one of the twentieth century's most difficult discordant pieces. turns out they were playing deck the halls.

i have always been on the other side of the winter festival.  and the jazzfest.  and spring serenade.  and all the different concerts that a parent attends during an average year.  it looked to me always that there was a little disorganization, as if, well, couldn’t the teachers get these kids to PAY ATTENTION!?  at new trier high school, where most of these kids will go and where my two sons played, there was discipline and determination, perfection, well fitted tuxedos and twenty dollar c.d.’s sold out in the lobby after a performance. there’s the solicitations for “angel investors” in the program and there’s trips to national competitions where new trier kicks musical butt.

for many of sheryl’s kids in fifth through eighth grade, this will be the last year that they can participate in a school music experience and not have their egos destroyed.  so she gets her student teacher to fix the bridge on the cello, she tells the kids who have lost their music that they need to find someone who does have music and make a copy in the principal’s office.  she sighs, cajols, begs, pleads, and most of all, leads.  this is seven thirty in the morning and by seven thirty this evening, she will have a winter festival with parents brushing away the tears as they watch their little bertrams and hermiones.  sheryl has a very long day ahead of her.

this morning, the bertrams and hermiones are a yammering, whispering, kicking, arguing, dithering, daydreaming horde.  if i were sheryl, i know how i’d deal with it all:

tonight i finally meet jessica zweig of cheekychicago.com and i pack for new york. . . as always i will be accompanied by f2fb friend #60 william clark who may be dead but he’s still good company!


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