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"Strings For Generations" Tunes Up For New Season As Pacific Symphony And Irvine Chinese School Welcome Families To Play Together And Share The Joy Of Music
Orange, CA — December 19, 2017
Music expresses what words sometimes cannot, which can be particularly meaningful for families. For those who participate in “Strings for Generations,” a multi-generational string orchestra for families, it is the strings of a violin that ties them together. Thanks to a partnership developed in 2015 between Pacific Symphony and South Coast Chinese Cultural Association/Irvine Chinese School, this unique program provides opportunities for families to play and learn about music together. Targeted toward string players in grades 4-9, the program requires that students have an adult family member who plays with them, as they enjoy high-quality instrumental music instruction in a non-competitive environment and learn about music from Western and Chinese cultures.
“ ‘Strings for Generations’ embraces parents and older family members, inviting them to make music alongside their children,” says Alison Levinson, the Symphony’s director of arts engagement. “Parents are oftentimes the chauffeurs, driving their kids between activities, but this program allows them to actively and meaningfully participate in the experience. They’re able to connect over music and better understand what being a musician is all about. It’s this spirit of lifelong music-making that the Symphony embraces and makes the program special. There is truly no other like it.”
Two “Strings for Generations” sessions take place on Monday evenings from 6:30-8:15 p.m.; Session One, which began in late November, ends on March 4, 2018; Session Two begins March 5, 2018, concluding on May 21, 2018. For more information, contact Levinson at email@example.com or (714) 876-2312. This program is made possible through The James Irvine Foundation’s New California Arts Fund.
Parents, older siblings or grandparents join the ensemble if they have string experience; if not, they join the percussion class. For the first several sessions, the percussion class and string orchestra are divided in two, each rehearsing their parts in separate rooms. The percussion class focuses on learning the basics of reading music, percussion technique and learning how to play the recorder, while the string class dives right into rehearsing music, which is a mix of Western and Chinese repertoire.
“I’ve seen myself improve quite a lot,” remarks parent-participant Hong Lin. “I hadn’t played in 30 years and I couldn’t even remember the notes, so I was very rusty in the beginning, but Mrs. Kroesen was very patient and my daughter helped a lot. I’m getting better and better, and we’re improving our mother-daughter relationship. I encourage her to express her opinion, communicate with me and tell me her ideas. So, this has improved our relationship, just by coming to rehearsals every week. We have more time to be together.”
The ensemble is led by Irene Kroesen, Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings’ music director and a renowned string educator. Carol Cooper Ajibabi, a retired music educator with 40 years of experience, leads the parent music class and Symphony musicians—Ayako Sugaya (violin), Cheryl Gates (viola), Andy Honea (cello), Joshua Ranz (recorder), and Brent Kuszyk (percussion)—join the group for small group sectionals twice per session. For these sectionals, the musicians fine-tune and prepare each section to play together to the best of their ability. The percussion class also has sectionals, one with a percussionist and another with a clarinet player who works on recorder. After several sessions, the two groups come together for rehearsals.
“The moments leading up to the performance are the highlight,” says parent-participant Jason Reiher, “when the parents come back into the classroom with the kids and get to see everything come together. That moment is pretty cool. Having that creative experience, being in that moment, there’s something magical about it. You lose track of time and get absorbed in what the entire group is doing. It’s just a great experience.”
The adults, many of whom have never played in an orchestra, are thrilled to be playing instruments with their children, who love seeing their parents play for the first time. Many parents report learning new things about music from their children. Each session ends with a snack provided by the Irvine Chinese School, which is an opportunity for everyone in the group to celebrate what they’ve accomplished during that day’s session and get to know each other better.
Participants will demonstrate all they have learned by performing during the Symphony’s Chinese New Year Celebration on February 10 and the 2018 Lantern Festival on March 4. Levinson says: “It’s such a great opportunity to rehearse and perform on the stage of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall for such a festive community event. Our participants look forward to it all season, and it’s always fun to see them experience the thrill of playing in the hall. For many, this is their first time ever performing and they get to do it in one of the best acoustical environments out there, so it’s especially exciting!”
Parent-participant Joy Li says: “I understand my daughter Sunny better now. She’s practicing every day, and I understand how hard that is. Parents nag their kids to ‘go practice, go practice.’ But now I understand her frustrations. I tell her ‘don’t worry, give yourself a little more time,’ because I’ve been there. ‘Strings for Generations’ is about getting together, laughing and working hard. I want my daughter to have that experience. This will teach Sunny how to be her best self—to conquer something and enjoy doing it.”
Levinson says she loves “seeing parents take up an instrument so they can play with their child…kids finding a home in our orchestra and developing friendships with peers…adults clapping rhythms and learning how to read notes, while cheering each other along…kids teaching parents…multiple generations in one family coming together every week, each challenging themselves in an individual way, while also taking home a similar experience of pushing themselves and finding new ways of self-expression.
“We see the light in our participants’ eyes walking off the stage after their first performance in an orchestra,” she continues. “That’s why I love this program. ‘Strings for Generations’ embodies what music is all about, and it provides a safe environment where all of these little, yet impactful, moments happen that lead people to be better, understand others and develop a love of music.”
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