Members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Shorewood High School orchestras played together on November 5 for the first-ever Side by Side concert in the arena.
Each student orchestra player — no matter if they were in string, symphony or chamber orchestra — sat near a professional musician for the entirety of the concert experience.
“A board member of the MSO came to me about a year and a half ago and had the idea of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra doing a joint concert with the high school orchestra,” said Karen Frink, high school orchestra director. “We set it up so every single student in the Shorewood orchestra program got the side-by-side experience with the MSO.”
The MSO has had a long history of playing with members of other orchestras, and this was the first time Shorewood was asked to participate in an event. However, this was also the first time the MSO decided to do a combined performance.
“From time to time [the MSO has] rehearsals with young people or adults, where they sit next to other musicians and have the side-by-side experience,” Frink said, “but they’ve never done it in a concert before.”
Students specifically enjoyed this new ability to watch the experts play their instruments in an atmosphere full of performers.
“It was interesting to see how a professional prepares for a concert, and … I really liked when just the MSO played because it was really awesome to be that close to them,” said Chris Zak, junior. “It was definitely a good experience.”
Additionally, the rehearsals offered a good chance to interact with the professionals.
“Not only did they play through the music with the MSO, but there was quite a bit of interaction and talking and teaching. At one point the conductor asked the MSO musicians in all three of the rehearsals to turn to the student next to them and talk about what just happened or teach them something about their instrument or the music,” Frink said.
The players also communicated on a personal level instead of solely discussing business and music.
“The MSO really interacted with us and they were very interesting. My stand partner Tim [Klabunde] was nice to me. He asked me a whole bunch of questions about my life and he was just very kind. He even helped me with some parts of the music I didn’t understand, and he was just a good guy,” said Tasha Cherono, senior.
The students rehearsed for weeks in their individual classes, then with the conductor one day before the concert and the entire symphony the day of. The final rehearsal included a 45-minute dress rehearsal for each of the three high school orchestras and a catered, combined dinner before the show.
“It was kind of a tight schedule,” Zak said.
Then, during the concert, the orchestras played an onslaught of pieces. Combined with the MSO, the string orchestra played the allegro of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 and John Williams’s Schindler’s List Theme; symphony orchestra played Alan Hovhaness’s Psalm and Fugue, Op. 40a and the berceuse and finale of Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird; chamber orchestra played selections from George Bizet’s Carmen Suite Nos. 1 & 2. Alone, the MSO performed Mozart’s Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492. Pieces not only included string instruments, but woodwinds, harps and brass as well.
After the duration of the concert, Frink hoped that not only the students evolved as players, but that the MSO players also did themselves.
“The educational outcome for my students was incredible, [regarding] the enthusiasm and the inspiration,” Frink said. “I think for the MSO, I hope that they see [the concert] as a huge outreach opportunity to people who are really interested in what it is that they’re doing.”
by Elena Cruz