“Bravo!” screamed the baritone voice from the audience. The string quintet had just finished performing Franz Schubert, and the sound of hands clapping overwhelmed the music hall.
Yesterday, I attended The Philadelphia Orchestra for the first time — but it will hardly be my last. The orchestra is a unique and sacred gem in the midst of revitalization, is a flagship for this city’s long-term health and offers a stunningly low cost of admission for college students. More of us should take advantage of this great opportunity.
To be fair, I am hardly the best candidate to vouch for the ensemble. My greatest musical performance to date came as the drummer playing “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas — in Rock Band 2. I just never learned to play a real instrument and took pity on the kids who had to schlep to violin lessons.
Growing up, I thought the idea of music lessons was akin to torture in the highest degree. I imagined myself stuck in a strange old lady’s living room getting read the differences between B-flat and F-minor like they were my Miranda rights. And I was forever determined to avoid that situation.
Over the years, though, I came to appreciate some Beethoven, Mozart and other composers. But my curiosity didn’t really pique until last fall, when my history professor began each lecture with a sampling of European symphonies. Still, I was lazy and didn’t really understand why I needed to go to a show in person. After all, in the age of iTunes and Bose headphones, why pay to sit with a horde of old people?
That skepticism was put to rest yesterday at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. There’s a decisive difference, I realized, between hearing the orchestra and feeling it.
Though surrounded by adults three times my age, the performance I witnessed was moving and personal. The best sound system in the world doesn’t compare to the feeling of sound literally surrounding you.
Other students feel similarly. “There are a lot of moments where I realize that I’ve skipped breathing for a few moments because of a swooping high note or some other intriguing development,” said Wharton and Engineering senior Helin Shiah, an avid concert-goer.
“I consider [attending the Orchestra] a matter of personal development,” she said, “[and it is] especially important as I’m going into the ‘real world’ after this year and require a better-formed artistic identity.”
Going to the orchestra isn’t just about a personal experience. It’s also about engaging with Philadelphia. After nearly four years at Penn, I’ve been to Eagles and Phillies games, museums and markets, numerous restaurants, bars and clubs. And yet, it would seem ridiculous to watch ESPN and feel like you understand what it’s like to be at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field. The orchestra must be experienced live to gain a better sense of the cultural identity of a city often maligned as dangerous, dirty and disrespectful.
For Penn students who did not grow up with one of the great national orchestras nearby, now is the time to take a trip downtown and try something refreshingly different. The orchestra generously offers college students an annual rate of $25 for an unlimited membership to concerts — enabling students to attend whenever is convenient for them at a ridiculously low price.
Recently, the Philadelphia Orchestra — after years of transition between various conductors and seemingly losing ground to peer institutions in New York, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago — has instated a new conductor-in-waiting. A Canadian named Yannick Nézet-Séguin is to preside over the orchestra’s revival.
Nézet-Séguin, at his premier concert in October, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “We are now just starting to consume our love.”
After yesterday’s performance, I am convinced he is right.
Colin Kavanaugh is a College senior from Tulsa, Okla. His e-mail address is kavanaugh@theDP.com. The Sooner, The Better appears on Mondays.Comments powered by Disqus
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