The North Cleveland Church of God auditorium was filled with third- through fifth-graders from Bradley County and Cleveland schools, local private schools and home-schooled students on April 1 at the annual Youth Concert.
About 3,000 students attended the two concerts for elementary students, which was presented by the Cleveland Symphony Guild and the Lee University Symphony Orchestra. Robert Bernhardt, the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra conductor for many years,is now conducting the Lee University Orchestra.
The CSG has been providing concerts for students in Bradley County and Cleveland for more than 30 years, according to Cleveland Symphony Guild concert chairman Peggy Pesterfield.
The April 1 program included about 40 minutes of music: “Mozart Symphony No. 31,” first movement ("Paris"), conducted by Sarah Pearson, Borodin Polovstian Dances, “Vivaldi Concerto for Two Cellos,” Bernstein — selections from “West Side Story,” and “ Piano Concerto No. 3” (last movement).
An opera aria (about three minutes long) was added. Pesterfield said, “I think the kids will get a kick out of hearing a big, operatic voice!”
Also on the 50-55-minute program were selected soloists selected by Maestro Bernhardt and a short movement by Ibert from the woodwind quintet after the players demonstrated their instruments for the students.
Since the Chattanooga Symphony was not able to schedule a concert date all of the schools could attend, the Lee University Orchestra, fortunately, was able to help out. The guild and Lee University, Pesterfield said, were excited to have the opportunity to continue to bring great symphonic music to area students. And, she said, “it went wonderfully.”
She said most comments were in regards to the personal ways that the instruments were introduced. “They really liked trying to figure out what music they were playing.”
Jane Taylor, music specialist at Prospect Elementary School told how her students enjoyed the music. “The forewarning of the Mozart and Borodin pieces helped prepare them for the experience,” she said. “The students especially enjoyed the familiar pieces like ‘West Side Story,’ which they recognized.” She said the students always enjoy having instruments highlighted and it was great to see Maestro Bernhart and the CSO Wind Quintet again.
Music teacher Megan Richmond at Mayfield Elementary School said she received many comments from students about “how cool, amazing, interesting, educational and so forth” the concert was. Many, she added, “enjoyed the opera and the song selections” — the concept of hearing music from all over the world.
Valley View Elementary music teacher Kathryn Roman said for most students, it is the first and perhaps the only exposure to a live orchestral experience. “I loved that Mr. Bernhart took time to show each instrument,” she said. “My students were so excited to see and hear the instruments and music selections we’d been talking about in class. The looks on their faces when they saw or heard something they recognized were priceless.”
Pesterfield said this was a new experience for the Lee University Orchestra and for the guild, although Bernhardt is now conducting the Lee University Orchestra. “His concerts were always delightful and enjoyed by the students,” she added.
An added plus this year, Pesterfield said, is that the fee paid for the concert will go toward a music scholarship to Lee.
A campaign will be launched to raise funds to continue these concerts, which are beneficial opportunities for the students.