One of my favorite things about conducting education concerts is the time just before the concert starts. I have made it my practice to stand in the lobby and greet our young concert attendees (usually with a bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket) as they enter the lobby. I do this for a few reasons. First, it’s a nice thing to do. The kids and the teachers appreciate it, and I love being social with thousands of young people. They are usually intrigued by the whole event, and are genuinely happy to be out of school for the day!
For me, it is also a way to gauge the energy of that day’s audience. I can tell if the kids are energized in a “we want to learn” kind of way, or in a “we’ve had too much sugar” kind of way! Occasionally, I discover that the kids are very subdued. In those instances, usually the teachers have put the fear of God into them on the bus that morning.
Regardless, reading their energy is an important part of how I tailor my comments and interact with them at the concert. Occasionally I run into a kid that has unbelievable comic timing that stops me in my tracks. For the record, those kids are super fun!
Recently, for instance, I struck up a conversation with this 4th grader. The roads were icy and so I was asking how the bus ride was. “How long of a drive is it from your school?” I asked. He replied, “42 minutes.” This struck me as odd for two reasons. The first is that it was mighty precise. The other is that usually when I ask this question I discover that most 4th graders have no sense of time. I’m not sure when that awareness happens, but I can say with a fair amount of authority that it doesn’t usually hit by the 4th grade!
So I said to him, “well, that’s specific. How did you know that?” He replied, “I guessed, like I do in math every day.” His teacher was standing right behind him and lucky for both of us he didn’t snort his coffee all over us!
This encounter reminded me of a young lady I met last year. I was in a playful mood and as she came in I struck up a conversation with her. She asked me if we were going to be handing out candy at the concert. Apparently, she had been to an event in the hall previously in which they gave the students candy (hopefully on the way out).
Anyway, I said to her, “no, but you know in some halls it is customary for the audience to bring the conductor chocolate,” to which she immediately replied, “Yikes, I don’t think I’d want to go to that concert hall!” So, no chocolate that day, but I bet both she and my recent math whiz were at least a bit surprised when they sat down in the hall, the lights went down and the conductor entered! You see, while teaching young audiences how to listen to music is very important to me, I have to say that connecting with them is equally so. Music is meant to be shared and enjoyed. At least in the case of these two young students, we each made the others’ days memorable.
From Robert Franz’s blog Building Bridges with Music. CLICK HERE to read more of his posts.