The musicians tuned their instruments, the conductor steadied his baton, and the strains of classical music began, but there was one unfamiliar sight: children embedded in the orchestra Sunday at a special performance in Massapequa.
More than 70 third graders in the Massapequa School District were immersed in the classical music experience, seated next to members of the Massapequa Philharmonic Orchestra as they performed selections from composers such as Johannes Brahms and Gabriel Faure.
During the concert, the children watched the musicians closely, observing how they played their instruments and interacted with the ensemble’s conductor, David Bernard, of Manhattan.
The third graders will soon choose musical instruments to begin studying next school year. Bernard said that it was very important to expose children to music early. He developed the multisensory experience, which he calls InsideOut, to help people embrace music in a more meaningful way.
“When you go to a regular classical concert, you don’t become immersed in the music-making experience … There’s a lot going on onstage that you may not see or be aware of,” Bernard said. “When you’re on stage with the orchestra, you get to see, feel and hear the music.”
Between each piece, the children discussed what they were experiencing and how the music made them feel. After South Korean violinist Anna Lee performed Brahms’ violin concerto, one child remarked that it gave him a “nice, warm feeling.” Others said that the music reminded them of the start of an animated DreamWorks movie.
Each year, more than 300 third graders in Massapequa schools elect to learn an instrument, said David Gaines, a music curriculum associate for the district. Gaines added that the partnership between the school district and the philharmonic orchestra was symbiotic.
“It’s an avenue for bringing culture,” Gaines said. “Instead of going to New York City and spending enormous amounts of money, you can get an exceptional experience here.”
After the concert, children tested a variety of instruments, such as trumpets, flutes and guitars, provided by Stony Brook University’s Staller Center.
Victoria Ehrhardt, 8, of Massapequa, said that the concert was “very majestic” and that the music’s flowing notes made her feel wonderful. Victoria, who’s considering learning to play the saxophone, said she thought it was one of the most beautiful instruments she had ever heard.
Her mother Samantha, 48, said that she hoped to instill in Victoria a love for music which would be with her throughout her life.
Andrew Brunson, 36, a Centereach resident who plays French horn in the philharmonic, said that the InsideOut concert showed children the extent to which a love of music could go.
“In school, they learn the basics; they don’t get to see what it really can get to, where you can go with it. It’s not just ‘Hot Cross Buns,’” said Brunson, also an elementary music teacher in North Merrick. “It’s good for them to see what is possible.”