One of my first musical memories is my father pounding his hands to the beat of the Rolling Stones on the steering wheel of our car. The music was loud, his voice was bad, and his rhythm was questionable — but he was free.
Fast-forward a few years to a nervous sixth grader sitting at attention in the flute section in the middle school orchestra. Instruments up, and the first notes of a piece called “Prelude and March” filled the room. It wasn’t Vivaldi or Tchaikovsky, but it was classical.
My father was in the audience that night and for many years to come. He didn’t know the rules of attending a classical concert, and couldn’t intellectualize about the sophistication of the harmony or the variation of the music. But he was happy just the same to listen to and engage with the music. Always tapping his hands to the beat.
My father taught me that what mattered most wasn’t my skill in playing music, or my knowledge of the music. It was my ability to connect with it — regardless of genre — and to find satisfaction in the notes.
Now, after retiring as a musician, I continue to help others find satisfaction in music by supporting the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. As a community orchestra, we aim to redefine the way our community experiences and engages with classical music.
Sometimes this means our concerts are noisy with audiences clapping between movements, and with kids getting up to go to the bathroom before intermission. And we do things differently. We tweet during concerts as a form of community outreach and spend time making sure our audience understands the music through pre-concert chats. Our musicians and our audiences come together at post-concert receptions where no question or comment is off limits.
I am compelled to serve as a board member, volunteer and donor to the DPO to make sure a diverse group of people are able to find satisfaction in classical music. It thrills me when I see a kid’s face light up at the first notes and tap a parent’s shoulder to say “they really like it!” And I love to hear feedback after concerts from people who have never experienced a classical concert before, and were thankful both for the music and for the welcome they received.
This year, I found a new reason to support the DPO. I become a mother to a little boy. Andrew is 8 months old, and the joy of my life. In addition to regular mothering tasks, I take very seriously my job to be his cultural ambassador. He’s already attended a concert (even though start time is past his bedtime), and we spend time each week listening to music, singing together and shaking baby-friendly instruments to the beat.
I don’t know if Andrew will be a musician, but I do know that he will find satisfaction in it — regardless of his knowledge or skill level.