“If they didn’t bring the programs into the schools many Buncombe County children would never hear live classical music,” said Fairview Elementary School Music Specialist Cheryl Lewis. The Fairview students cheered and clapped for the Asheville Guild sponsored brass quintet that played for them Friday morning.
“This [hearing music in school] is the way many of us got started,” said professional musician and former Atlanta Symphony member Larry Black, who now plays in the quintet. “Several kids out there may be future musicians.”
Black, who plays a trumpet, is part of a Music Education Program sponsored by the Asheville Symphony Guild, which brings live performances of brass, woodwinds and strings into the Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools. The musicians, many of whom are members of the Asheville Symphony, discuss and demonstrate their instruments and play a variety of musical selections for the students.
Lewis said this becomes a cross educational event for the students, tying in science and history. Lewis explained as the musicians talk about the instruments, the students learn about how they work, sound vibration, and other mechanics. History and Social Studies tie in as the musicians talk about the composers, their lives and the cultures that influence the music.
Quintet member David Jordan, who used to teach band at Reynolds Middle School, quizzed the Fairview students about the instruments. The children raised their hands to answer many of the questions correctly, then laughed as Jordan demonstrated the low notes he could play on the tuba.
Trumpet player Casey Coppenbarger, who acts as spokesperson for the quintet, said the music program rotates the different groups of brass, woodwinds and strings, through the schools so each school can hear different types of instruments.
“They [Asheville Symphony Guild] try to get the kids to hear each group at least one time before they graduate to middle school,” Coppenbarger said. “The goal is to get more kids involved with music.”
Coppenbarger talked with the Fairview students during the performance, introducing the musicians and explaining about classical music. When he asked if anyone would like to hear some Jazz, the media center erupted in cheers and “yeahs!”
As the quintet played a piece titled “Just a Closer Walk,” students and teachers alike clapped and tapped their feet in time with the rhythm.
“Without exception we always get oohs and ahhs for Jazz,” said Coppenbarger. “It’s new to them [grade school students].”
“Kids this age are wide open,” added Jennifer Merrell who plays the horn for the group. Merrell spent several minutes after the performance showing interested students her horn and answering questions.
Black added that the young students like the brass chamber music because it jumps right out at them. He explained it was the upbeat sounds of the brass instruments that caught his enthusiasm when he was in school.
“I was enamored with the trumpet,” he said.
The musicians also talked about how much work and practice went into becoming a good musician. Black said he knew of a neurosurgeon who studied symphony musicians and said most obtain the same skill at their music as a brain surgeon achieves to perform surgery.
“Most musicians are not naturally gifted. We work our tails off,” said Black who added successful musicians practice at least two to three hours a day. “If you don’t enjoy it, do something else.”