Fifth-graders hear the sounds of music

DOWNEY - In January of this year, everything was ready to go. Fifth-grade students from all of Downey's elementary schools would board buses for the big Civic Theatre to hear Downey's Symphony Orchestra play a concert prepared especially for them.Downey Unified mapped out the entire operation with its usual precision: all school principals, teachers, students and their parents have been notified about the big field trip? Check. Bus schedules are complete, drivers on hand, all seven buses operational? Check. Schools have been assigned theater entrance doors, exit doors and seating rows? Check. Parochial schools: you plan to attend also? Check. Theater staff: stage, lighting, sound system, crews, everything ready? Check. Volunteers to guide and shepherd the kids? Check. Orchestra manager: all instrumentalists contracted for rehearsals and performances? Check. Symphony Board: you have funding for all this? By a miracle, check. Only a major, major, major catastrophe could stop this enterprise from moving forward. Of course a major, major, major rainstorm happened and everything was canceled. Bummer. Canceled, but not dead in the water. Like a phoenix, the whole shebang, rescheduled, arose intact on one of our sunniest days a week ago, and 1,763 kids and teachers got their Beethoven, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky. Conductor Sharon Lavery donned her special costume for music from Pirates from the Caribbean: black eye patch, swoopy plumed hat, striped hose, broadsword, even a hook. Everybody loved it. Symphony President Larry Lewis, welcoming the students, asked them how many had come to this theater when they were little kids in third grade, for a special orchestra concert. Hundreds of arms shot up. "How many of you have heard the Music in the School Quintet when they visit your schools?" A sea of arms. He encourages them to take up an instrument when they go to middle school next year. "The more you know about music, the more you enjoy it." It is a busy season for the Downey Symphony, now completing its 53rd year. On this particular morning the musicians played three performances, one after another, to accommodate everyone, and it was possible because of generous funding from the Downey Kiwanis Foundation, the "miracle" referred to earlier. Added cooperative support came from the City, the Musicians Union, DUSD and, of course, from this great audience of enthusiastic youngsters. They are the reason the rains stopped, the sun came out, and the buses rolled again.

********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49