WALLA WALLA -- Music came to life Friday for more than 2,500 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders during the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra's Young People's Concerts. Cordiner Hall was packed with students from 22 local and neighboring elementary schools for the two performances.Lara Goodrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Symphony Maestro Yaacov Bergman greeted the excited crowd and welcomed double-bass soloist Jake Willard to the stage. Willard entered with his towering instrument, eliciting some "ooos" and "aahs" from the attentive audience members.
Jake has taken double-bass lessons for three years. He is in ninth grade at the Walla Walla Valley Academy, and plays in the Con Brio Orchestra as well as the Walla Walla Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Bergman hoped Jake's example would inspire young people in the audience to work hard to excel in music.
"It's such a pleasure to work with a young musician," he said. "If you play really well, you too may get an invitation to play with the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra. But don't forget to practice, and don't wait for mommy to tell you to."
After the concerto, the concert's main feature, "The Three Legged Monster," began. With music by Israeli composer Tzvi Avni, and story by his wife Hanna Yador-Avni, the short play tells the tale of twin violins, Violi and Violo, who venture into the woods to find a monster that their grandfather has told them about. Along the way they meet many instrument friends who join them on their quest for the infamous creature.
The symphony's accompaniment brought the story and its characters to life. With the introduction of each new instrument to the plot, the corresponding symphony instrument played a lively solo.
The story was told through the narration skills of local actor Kevin Loomer, and beautiful illustrations by Lucy Elkivity were projected onto the tall walls of Cordiner, so the children could easily follow along.
At the end of their journey, Violo, Violi and their new friends find the legendary monster alone in a cave. It is not a monster after all, but a lonely grand piano. Recognizing a friend in need, all of the instruments work together to push the piano back home with them. United, they all make music together.
The 45-minute program kept the fidgety audience well entertained, giggling and enthusiastically clapping all the way through.
The Walla Walla Public Schools music department, which strives to expose young students to many forms of music, was grateful for the symphony's "hard work and dedication" in this year's concert.
"The Young People's Concert provides an opportunity for teachers to expose their students to the symphony experience at a young age," said department secretary Ginger Calvario. "Hopefully many of the kids walk(ed) away with the desire to learn a particular instrument after seeing the performance."
According to Calvario, encouraging music education from an early age not only positively affects students' academic development, but it also helps to maintain Walla Walla's vibrant music culture.
"In addition to enjoying the music, the students learn about the different instruments that make up a symphony orchestra, and this will encourage them to make music part of their lives from an early age," Calvario says. "Also ... the concert series raises awareness in our students and their families of the wonderful opportunities they have to experience the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra, increasing the community's support of symphony programs."