....completely consumed my life last week.
Here at Utah State, the Piano Department heads up a program called the Youth Conservatory. Through this program, kids in Cache Valley can enroll in Theory classes with kids their age, as well as take private piano lessons - all taught by the college students and professors. Kids of all ages (well, from about 4 to 17) are filling the halls of our wing of the Fine Arts Center from about 3:30 to 8:00 every weeknight.
As Piano majors, we are required to help with the three major YC events each year, the first being the Halloween Carnival. As that event drew near, I wasn't too excited to spend my whole Friday watching kids run amuck, their blood buzzing with sugar and their brains filled with the excitement of Halloween. However, once I got there and saw how completely adorable they all were, my heart softened and I ended up having a great night!!
That same dismay surfaced as Monster Concert approached. Up until about 2 weeks before, all I knew about it was I would be spending a whole lot more time than I'd really like to at the Fine Arts Center. After the informational meeting, I wasn't feeling too much better. Although I had finally learned what it was all about.
Each year the YC heads pick a theme - this year it was that each song had to do with dance - and then sort through hundreds of songs until they find the perfect set for the concert. Then, kids can sign up for whichever song they want to play - within their own level, of course. Usually, about 15-20 kids will sign up for each song, and here's the twist: they all play at the same time! 6 grands, 8 uprights, and about that many keyboards are set up on the stage of the Kent Concert Hall, and the kids enter the stage and play each song together. Also, along with the Monster theme, the department rents a monster mascot costume. In between every 3-4 songs, the monster comes out and does humurous skits complete with sound effects and musical accompaniment to keep everyone entertained and to make it a fun night for the kids.
As part of the concert, each Piano Major was assigned to either be a beat keeper, or a fill-in. Beat keepers sat at the students' side, assisting them to come in at the same time, turning their pages, and making sure they stay on the beat. Fill-ins were required to play wherever they were needed, (like if there were 10 kids on the top part and only 5 on the bottom). We are expected to be at all 4 of the rehearsals as well, to get a feel for the music, make any notes that we need, and make sure we're just as ready for the concert as the kids are.
As I walked into the first rehearsal on Tuesday night, I wasn't much looking forward to spending 2 and a half hours in the same room, keeping beats and turning pages. Once we started, however, my attitude completely changed. Hearing all those pianos together was spectacular! Even the simplest and shortest pieces played by the youngest of kids were made exciting by the group effort. That very night I gained a new enthusiasm for music.
The rest of the week was spent preparing, rehearsing, moving pianos, making decorations, and practicing for the skits. After a long 6-hour rehearsal Friday night, you'd think I'd be burned out, right? No way! I was flying high that night when I got home, filled with the joy of music. And after a night of staying up chatting with my roommates until nearly 2:30, one would assume I'd be completely exhausted and dreading the Saturday 8 a.m. rehearsal. I don't know what it was, but I was so excited about every second of it!
After hearing the spectacular renditions of 3 Brahms waltzes, Footloose, Dancing Queen, Rock Around the Clock, Shall We Dance (from the King and I) and many others right in a row Saturday morning, the kids filed out of the concert hall and we were left to practice the skits. I was excited to see what they had planned for this year. We were told that all of us would be participating in two skits. The first being the introduction of the concert. Professor Hirst would come out in his tuxedo and say "In tonight's concert, each song has something to do with dance. We will be entertaining you with Waltzes..." After which all of us would stand up in our respectful places and begin waltzing as the talented boys in the back played a waltz for us on the keyboard. We did the same with the introduction of a Boogie, a March, and a Samba.
After arriving back home at 12 o'clock that day, I was more than excited to get back that night and see the rest of the skits and just enjoy some fun music. Although the concert wasn't flawless by any means, I enjoyed it immensely.
Some highlights of the rehearsal and that night:
- Seeing Brooke Hirst scream and chase her husband across the stage.
- Hearing the "evil villain's" laugh that sounded exactly like Professor Amano's.
- Seeing the crazy side of all my professors and teachers; such a nice change from the formal classroom setting!
- Running up to the front of the stage in the middle of a skit to do a line-dance while holding signs that said "I Love My Job" (Just like the folks at Texas Roadhouse)
- Having to yell "READY, SET, COUNT-OFF 1-2-3-4!!!" So the kids playing "Racecar Boogie" would start together.
- The last song was played by the faculty and college students. As the conductor, Luke, came up to the podium, all of us pretended to be interested in other things. A cell phone went off, we fixed our hair, shuffled papers, etc. As Luke appears to be getting frustrated, all of a sudden Star Wars music begins to play and you hear from backstage: "Luke... Use the force...." Luke whips out a light-saber, each of our heads snap to the front, and he proceeds to conduct with it.
- Listening to some truly amazing music!!
After reading all this, you may be thinking "Wow, this girl is a nerd. Why would she enjoy this so much?" Truth be told, I couldn't give you an exact reason. Maybe it's just the fact that I got to be on stage for the first time since high school; maybe it was because music runs through my veins; maybe it's because I'm completely crazy. All I know is, last week was the most fun I've had with my major so far!! I loved every second of it and can't wait until next year!! I just hope the kids had as much fun as I did.
Lastly, Sorry for just the one picture. Since I was so involved in the concert, I couldn't really take more pictures. I tried to take videos of the songs while I turned pages, but they turned out to be shaky videos of my lap in which you couldn't even hear the songs. Just trust me when I say that it was a spectacular event. Seriously, consider checking it out next year. It's only 3 dollars admission and it's really fun to watch! I've even thought about trying to live somewhere nearby so my kids can participate in this someday. Did I really just say that? Yes, I most certainly did!!