It has been several months since I got involved with a student orchestra which is one of the oldest long-serving one. This time I am involved as principal conductor working along with non-music major students and also a team of music director, professional music teachers and also student board. Though I am only several months into the role, now I really understand how hard it is to build an orchestra back to its relevance to the public.
University orchestra is a great place to learn about managing an arts organization, I learnt. Formed by volunteer musicians, contributing to a general public of students is never an easy thing to do. As a conductor who has his own say on artistic direction, I try to incorporate my own ideals into practice and propose it to team which some are taken into consideration and even put into practice after receiving support from the music director.
One of them is to incorporate a contemporary music into repertoire. Though this student orchestra in its history has commissioned quite a number of orchestration work, but most of them are written in a post-romantic and pop orchestra manner while incorporating traditional music elements. None of them are written in a modern western music idiom which has been known for almost a century now. Commissioning this new work really invoke a new confidence in the orchestra to have courage to tackle new music which is really intended by the composer for this particular orchestra.
My fulfillment also comes from how the orchestra responded to this kind of new music. At the beginning almost everyone in the orchestra was puzzled by this kind of music, something that poised as an enigma for them. But slowly, the orchestra grew to like the music as the music taking shape in rehearsals. Some of the young musicians even said that they finally could understand and even enjoy the music, for me this bring joy to my heart especially when this utterance comes from an orchestra who is to accustomed to hearing recordings of a piece before playing them.
It is one’s belief that music belongs to a wider public. More and more people should be able to enjoy this kind of art form. And this year, this student orchestra held its first park concert. a free concert in a public park. Simple yet engaging the audience and of course playing our hearts out is one of our aim to play outdoor. And furthermore we would like to engage more with the public through this free concert. Not many classical music concert, let alone orchestral concert held in public space such as parks in Jakarta, a concert should also serve as a reminder that music is to serve a wider public not just a fortunate few. And to be one of those people to introduce this type of concert to Jakarta public and to lead a student orchestra as a pioneer of this approach is an honor.
Yes, this is only a small stint of what you can do to present music to others. And certainly there is a lot more to be done. Walk the talk, and I am doing it as we speak, not an easy thing yet we do it, we work on it and we work on it together. And knowing that your ideals is being accepted and embrace by others is a fulfillment in its own right.