Making music across the generations

Imagine the Palace stage filled with 100 kids – each one armed with an instrument – not making a single sound for nearly a minute while the waited for their signal, all eyes glued on a conductor. With a quick motion he brings the ensemble to life, playing Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.”

That is how seriously the students in the Harmony Program – 25 of them who rehearse five days a week at the Palace – take their opportunity to have a master class with members of the New York Philharmonic. On November 2, 2013 it was the second time during the year that the master musicians provided a master class for the 4th through 6th graders at the Palace.

The students spent the afternoon rehearsing as a full orchestra studded with about a dozen Philharmonic players and split up by instrument into sections for intimate instruction from each of the professional musicians.

“A master class is special,” explained Michael Adelson, who conducted the orchestra for the day. “You can’t learn classical music from a book or download an app. You have to learn it from another person who has learned it from another human being.”


Between fine tuning the young orchestra – “How about we do this faster?” “Accents!” “The 1/8th notes get lost; the trick is to play them louder.” – Adelson also helped connect the young musicians to the traditions of playing classical music as an ensemble.

For instance, he described his lineage as a conductor, how his teacher, Michael Tilson Thomas, was only five instructors removed from Beethoven.

The interaction between the students and Philharmonic musicians was priceless. The mentors seemed to get as much out of the experience as the students. The passion and enthusiasm they saw in the kids reminded them of why they first picked up their instruments decades ago.

The commitment and discipline and progress and flat-out joy that our kids display while engaged in these activities is a constant reminder of why we do our work.