Friday, August 26, 2011

Speaking to the Students

The city of South Bend has a little welcome session for incoming freshmen. The event makes a lot of sense, as we have 4 big colleges here but little in the way of a "strip" for them to hang out on. We are a grown-up town that happens to have a huge number of students here 9 months of the year, and they mostly keep themselves to themselves - perhaps having an introduction to the local businesses might encourage some of them to venture off their campuses and join in the community.

Apparently the Symphony gets a chance to speak every year, and this week I was asked to do the honors. Never one to pass up being the center of attention, I was right there. My speech was perhaps a little overwritten - but they sat there and took it, and hey! Maybe some of them will consider coming out to hear us! Also, I managed to keep from talking exclusively about ME and my AMAZING October CONCERTO, which I thought was just awfully selfless of me.

Hi, Everyone! My name is Jennet Ingle, and I am the Principal Oboist for the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. I am here to talk to you about coming to the symphony during your out of school hours. And I suspect that some of the reasons you wouldn't come include the expense and the perceived irrelevance, and if it's not those, maybe it's just a teeny hint of snobbery because you come here from a larger town with a "better" orchestra. I'd like to address these concerns.

You can attend the symphony for $8 as a student, or purchase a subscription for 50% off the regular price. How many here are Notre Dame students? We do three concerts right on your campus, at the gorgeous DeBartolo Center, and you can walk there. It's cheaper than a movie, and the popcorn isn't nearly as expensive. OK, there's no popcorn at all, but you can buy wine at the intermission. OK, you probably can't, because you are freshmen, but come anyway.

This orchestra is a regional orchestra in a medium-sized town. BUT that is not the same as being a community orchestra. Everyone here has won a nationally advertised audition, and although the SBSO is not a full-time orchestra, most of its members are full-time professional musicians who make their living playing with numerous groups like this and by teaching. Many of our musicians come in from Chicago, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and even farther afield. We have degrees and advanced degrees in this art form, and we have players here who are simply world-class.

Why should you come? I'll tell you why. Because it is an experience. You can turn off your smartphone for two hours and be with a person you like or alone with your thoughts. You can sit in a hall and watch 60 real people working as hard as they can to bring you something special. Live music happens only once. You might hear one of us make a mistake, or you might hear one of us have a spectacular, magical night. You don't have to have a degree in music to enjoy what we do, but like any hobby you can get into it as deeply as you want. Maybe you just want to close your eyes and drift along with the music of a great and intelligent composer. Maybe you want to watch Trevor with an intense and steely gaze because you played clarinet in high school and want to see how he does what he does. Maybe you want to follow along with a score hoping to catch mistakes, and criticize them later in your blog. Your mind can wander or you can focus on the conducting or whether the strings are bowing together or whatever you want. In any case, during that two hours you are off the grid, and we are taking you to 19th century Vienna, or Paris, or post-war LA. You can leave feeling transported - and all for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

What you don't know about our symphony is that although the orchestra as an institution is in many ways a museum, the people on stage are truly passionate about what they do. We love to bring this music to you, and to share what we do with you. Please come. Thank you.

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