Musicians talk a great deal about how important it is to “warm up,” and this was given new meaning during the fourth Civic concert cycle of this season. As if playing nine new works, each from a different composer currently studying at the University of Chicago, wasn’t enough of a challenge, we had to do it while warding off frostbite. This of course was happening during the infamous Polar Vortex, bringing temperatures down to –22°F before wind chill. Ultimately, several of the rehearsals were cancelled to ensure that those involved, as well as their instruments, remained unharmed.
As a result of the missed rehearsal time, the difficult decision was made to cancel the concert and use the remaining time to turn the concert into a series of recording sessions. Under the masterful baton of former Civic Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot, this proved to be of great use to the composers — each of whom now has a high quality recording of their work. For a composer today, these recordings are an extremely valuable asset. It was reassuring and inspiring to see how the situation was dealt with so effectively. It would have been justified to cancel the concert altogether given the circumstances, but the administration came up quite an inventive solution to the problem, one that I think will almost have a greater lasting impact on the young composers.
And happening right in the midst of all this cold and chaos was a Civic Fellows workshop with teachers from the schools at which will be performing our CSO-Connect program. Getting informed feedback from those that really understand what will click with kids was a great experience. Viola Fellow Rebecca Boelzner described the teachers as having “a better sense of what kids will respond to.” While all of the fellows have at least some teaching experience, getting the advice from veteran teachers is crucial. As part of this project, we will be getting the kids engaged in all sorts of musical activities. Short of playing it for a room of first graders, this is the best kind of feedback that we can get.
Playing for the teachers also drove home how soon the performances begin! After months of planning, the first performance is coming up in just a few weeks. I know I speak for the rest of the fellows in saying that we are all so excited that these schools are having us come to perform for them. We will bring CSO-Connect to 15 schools throughout Chicago, located all over the city. I’m looking forward to see all of our hard work pay off, and most of all looking forward to seeing how much the kids will enjoy it!
By Civic Fellow and Bassoon Quinn Delaney
TOP: Last season’s class of Civic Fellows present their CSO-Connect performance to participating educators during a workshop in the Thomas Club of Orchestra Hall | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018