Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three Bucket List Musical Experiences

Most of my professional musician peers have bucket lists of musical experiences. The experiences include learning (and performing, usually) the most well-known concerti (or arias) for one’s instrument (or voice) and meeting (and having a lesson with) the most well-known performers on one’s instrument, as well as such exotic side shows as visiting the home of J.S. Bach, going to a Proms concert, and so forth.

Music aficionados (which may of course overlap with the above demographic) often have bucket lists of musical experiences as well. The top of these lists is generally occupied by the desire to see one’s favorite artist live in concert.

As I was reflecting this summer on my life as a professional musician, I realized that some of my most fulfilling musical experiences were as a listener, rather than a performer. That is not to say that I think little of performing experiences. I am, after all, a music educator, and I am paid, in part, to prepare students for public performances. I also have many great memories of performing myself, particularly from my time as an undergraduate at Wheaton College, and I am grateful that performance was a core part of the Conservatory curriculum. But there is great value in simply listening to music, especially through attending live performances.

But where to begin? In some ZIP codes, there are probably dozens of concerts occurring nightly. I want to recommend three live musical experiences that I believe every person should add to his or her bucket list. Feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

1. Training Orchestra Concert

Young people have a lot of energy. This will not surprise anyone who has spent any time with children, but young adults too have a lot of energy. This energy is often particularly evident when young people begin the first exciting years of their careers. The excitement of finishing college, getting a job, and doing what one loves combine into high levels of productivity.

I have seen this phenomenon in training orchestras. These young adult musicians bring a different kind of energy to the stage than their elder colleagues. With their whole careers yet to unfold, these twenty-something orchestral musicians fill the concert hall with an excitement that is hard to describe – and the performances are simply suburb.

Training orchestras in the United States include the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the New World Symphony (Miami), and the Symphony in C (Camden, New Jersey).

2. Outdoor Classical Concert

Outdoor classical music festivals are seriously one of the best ways to spend a summer evening. When and where else can you hear major choral, orchestral, and/or wind repertoire performed by professional musicians and have a picnic at the same time? For those of us who cannot afford to hire the Irish Tenors to sing at our private backyard barbecues, summer outdoor concerts fill this void. You can even take pictures and talk to people during the performance (but please keep it to a minimum).

Outdoor classical concerts in the United States are almost limitless during the summer months. Some examples: Grant Park Music Festival (Chicago), Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles), the Ravinia Festival (Highland Park, Illinois, just north of Chicago), the Tanglewood Festival (Lenox, Massachusetts, outside Boston), and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (Vienna, Virginia, outside Washington).

3. Performance of a Sacred Masterwork

I was a little spoiled during my undergraduate years, and even after with my continuing connections to Wheaton, because the Wheaton Conservatory presents a lot of sacred masterworks. But Christian colleges are not the only places to hear these pieces, though there is something extra moving about watching these young Christian musicians present this music that speaks explicitly of their faith. (Perhaps more on that subject later.)

Performances of sacred masterworks are even more limitless than outdoor classical concerts, so I will instead suggest pieces rather than ensembles or venues. Some suggestions: Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Handel’s Messiah, and the Requiems of Brahms, Mozart, and Verdi. And those five are seriously only a very small portion of the worthwhile repertoire.


This is Rubio, over and out.

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