What a week… – Jessica Schmidt

After a bit of a hiatus, I’m happy to be back in the blogging saddle. It’s been a wild couple of weeks, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had with the PSO, as of late.

We hosted our first Fiddlesticks Family Concert of the 06-07 season on Saturday, October 28th. Fiddlesticks is a bit like a mini-Superbowl for our department; lots of planning for the big day, many players on the field, and hydration is important… Every aspect of these concerts is carefully designed to be developmentally and educationally appropriate, as all of our Education and Community Engagement programs are designed.

The Fiddlesticks concert day begins with a very early morning set-up of the many pre-concert Discovery Time Activities that take place throughout Heinz Hall prior to the performance. Our stagehands and sound/light crew arrive at the hall before the sun comes up to move pianos to their correct locations, hang up signage, adjust lighting and sound on the stage, etc. We have the best stagehands/crew we could ask for here at Heinz Hall, and Fiddlesticks concerts always demand a lot of their talents.

Our Education staff also arrives at the hall in the early morning hours to be a part of the set-up process. Heinz Hall transforms into a child’s musical dream by 10:00 a.m., when patrons are welcomed into the hall to visit the various rooms that hold the Discovery Time Activities. At the recent concert, “melody” was the guiding theme of the morning. (We are presenting the building blocks of music this year throughout our three-concert Fiddlesticks series- melody, rhythm, and harmony will all be featured.) All of the Discovery Time Activities are designed to serve as preparation for the concert experience; this past concert’s activities offered everything from an opportunity for children to learn the Fiddlesticks theme song, to a feature of our Principal Clarinetist, Michael Rusinek and Principal Bassoonist, Nancy Goeres demonstrating how the same melodies can sound very different on their particular instruments, to a room where attending children could explore their own addition of physical movement to the sound of a melody.

At 11:15, we woke Fiddlesticks up from his kitty slumber to begin the concert. There is nothing quite like the reaction that Fiddlesticks receives from the kids in attendance at the concert when he appears on stage for the first time…he’s a feline rock star. It was a successful concert morning, with many new Fiddlesticks friends in the audience who we hope will return for future Fiddlesticks performances and beyond.

We transitioned from Fiddlesticks Family Concerts into a pair of Community Engagement performances this past week.

Thursday night, the PSO traveled to Pine-Richland High School to
perform a concert under the direction of our wonderful Resident
Conductor, Daniel Meyer. The concert featured
Tom Hu, a local high school Senior (and concertmaster of the Pittsburgh
Youth Symphony Orchestra), who was a winner of the PSO/Duquesne
University Concerto Competition. He performed a
movement of the Sibileus Violin Concerto beautifully, and made the rest
of us reexamine what we were doing during our Senior years of high
school… Pittsburgh’s Junior Mendelssohn Chorus joined the PSO on the
last piece of the concert, Mozart’s Coronation Mass. We were also fortunate enough to have four talented vocalists with us to sing the solo parts on the piece. It’s
an amazing, amazing composition, and to see the Jr. Mendelssohn Chorus
on stage with the orchestra and know that they appreciated the
experience of making music with the PSO was a very rewarding aspect of
the evening. Proceeds
from the Pine-Richland concert will benefit the Pine-Richland
Opportunities Fund, which provides scholarships to Pine-Richland high
school students and educators.

This past Saturday night brought another Community Engagement performance- this time in Pittsburgh’s Wilkinsburg Community. Once again, Daniel Meyer conducted and led the audience through the concert from stage with much skill. When Dan walked on stage to begin the performance, he and the musicians were greeted by a very vocal and welcoming audience- we all knew it was going to be a fun evening. The
orchestra performed quite a diverse program. We featured a fantastic
mezzo from the Opera Center of Pittsburgh, Karin Mushegain, who sang
Bizet and Rossini. We also featured our own Nancy Goeres and Michael Rusinek performing a piece by Danzi.  The
concert ended with two pieces (one being a gospel piece) that utilized
Wilkinsburg’s own Covenant Church of Pittsburgh Choir supplemented by
Wilkinsburg Public School Students and Wilkinsburg Community Members.

have a tremendous group of committee members on our Community
Engagement Committee in Wilkinsburg- everyone from the Mayor of
Wilkinsburg, to public school music teachers, to faith community
leaders- and they all worked night and day to get the word out to the
community that we wanted them to join us for this evening of music. I always become a bit like a kid on the night before Christmas on the few days before these concerts take place. I
love my job, and I especially love moments like the Wilkinsburg
performance- when the PSO and local community members have the
opportunity to come together and interact musically as an aspect of a
Community Engagement relationship.

night’s performance was a big success, a ton of fun, and a hugely
rewarding evening…over $3,000 in ticket sale proceeds were raised, and
will help to sustain the newly formed elementary band program of the
Wilkinsburg Public Schools.Wilkinsburg_1

And now, I should stop blogging for a bit and get back to some other projects in the works here in the Education Department. It’s been an active and enjoyable few weeks, and I’m looking forward to many more, this season.

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