It's finally upon us! Our trip to South Korea is less than a week away! We've been planning, raising money, rehearsing, getting our t-shirts, checking out the itinerary, and buying everything we need for the trip. Some have probably even begun packing! I've even been trying to adapt my sleep schedule to going to bed earlier in the night so that I might get at least a little sleep before have to wake up at 2:45 to get ready to go to the airport! (Not very successfully, unfortunately!)
While all the preparations have been taking place, I've been reminiscing about my own Youth Orchestra trip to a foreign country when I was in high school. As a member of the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra, I got to travel to Mexico with the orchestra. We performed three concerts while there, spent time sightreading orchestral music, and playing in a chamber group. We saw the sites while there, and my saddest memory is seeing the cardboard houses in the poorer areas of the country. It was my first time out of the country and first time in a place where I did not speak the language. It was a little unsettling!
My greatest memory is playing in a church in Puebla, which was near where we stayed. The church was packed with people, young and old and in between, most sitting in the pews, the children sitting on the floor as close to us as they could get. We played the Clarinet Concerto by Mozart, Barber's Adagio for Strings and a Symphony by Howard Hanson's. The acoustics were amazing and we had never sounded so good. The audience was enthralled, totally captivated. The applause went on and on. Afterward, the young children flocked around the student who played the Clarinet Concerto. He had very red hair and they hadn't seen that before. I don't think I have ever encountered such a receptive audience in all my years of playing. It was such a joy to bring music to these very appreciative people.
I'm sure on our trip, we will encounter times of being unsettled as we listen to the language being spoken around us. Maybe some have never flown on a plane before. Maybe some have never left our country. We will get to see amazing sites and historical places. And we will get to join with Korean children and perform a concert. Maybe some of them will speak English, and a few of our students speak Korean, but it doesn't matter too much, because music is the universal language. We all know how to read it and make it happen on our instruments. And we can all experience the various feelings it brings to our heart while playing. I thank God daily that He has given me the job of guiding this Youth Symphony and being the one who gets to bring these life changing events to our students. I am so excited to spend this time with them and grow to love them even more than I already do. I promise to take good care of them!
With Gratitude, Damia Cleaver
I think I have the best job in the world! I get to play a small part inf the lives of our terrific students. I get to plan for their musical education. make a way for them to learn and grow and to eventually mature as musicians. It's the best!
This year we have incorporated field trips to hear great symphony orchestras in the metroplex. When I was a high school student, I wasn't that interested in listening to classical music. Sometimes the ear has to develop to begin to find classical music enjoyable. I didn't really get there until late high school and early college. But these students who have been attending these concerts love listening to this music, and I love attending with them because I get to watch their excitement. My favorite part of the trip is when we talk about the concert on the drive home - what we heard and what we read in the program notes. And by the way, they often lead the conversations in this direction. It doesn't come from me.
Orchestra kids are special. They are smarter, harder working, better behaved and stringer leaders than their peers. They are our countries' future, and I think we're in good hands.