It’s always interesting watching people enter a room. Some people stride in with all the confidence in the world; others hesitate a bit, glancing around in an attempt to find someone they know before making that awkward step across the threshold. All of this is even more entertaining when the subjects are middle schoolers who dragged themselves out of bed on a Saturday morning for two hours of band rehearsal with a bunch of college kids (because let’s be honest, we’re all still kids at heart).
Such was the situation on Saturday, January 30, the first rehearsal of Dartmouth Youth Winds, a six-week program by members of the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, created by our director Matthew M. Marsit, in which we volunteer to mentor and make music with Upper Valley middle-schoolers and play a culminating concert together. This is the program’s fourth year, and young musicians and their parents say great things about it. “Thank you again for this wonderful program,” one parent’s letter reads. “[Our daughter] says she now feels like “a real musician” and has gained so much confidence that she’s actually trying to create variations of some pieces – and is also tinkering on the piano again. I love it!”
All of the young percussionists I worked with that first morning were seasoned veterans of the program, but things still started with the awkward introductions and inquisitions about how school is going. Luckily, Mr. Marsit interrupted the awkwardness with greetings and some playing, and I like to think that I finally broke through to them during sectionals with my awkward icebreaker question: what would you do with 10,000 spoons? (Speaking of which, what would YOU do with 10,000 spoons? I’m always curious to hear what people come up with.) My crowning accomplishment was finally getting a laugh out of them, and I like to think that it made them more comfortable around the (not so) intimidating quasi-adults.
We sounded surprisingly good, for sight-reading; I’m excited to see what happens next week when everyone starts getting more comfortable with the parts. The kids are adorable, as always (shout out to the euphonium player blaring the Star Wars theme song, you go kid), and I’m really excited to be working with people who have yet to hit their quarter-life crisis. My hope is that by the end of the program, we’ll have these kids striding into the room like the own the place, completely comfortable with themselves, each other, and the music they make.
Hear a free, public concert by Dartmouth Youth Winds on Saturday, March 5, 1:30 pm, Spaulding Auditorium, Hopkins Center. Hear their mentors, the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, play Sunday, February 21, at 2 pm, also in Spaulding.
By Cynthia Tan ’17
Cynthia Tan, ’17, is a biomedical engineering major from Old Lyme, CT. When she isn’t slaving away on problem sets, she can be found playing percussion with the wind ensemble, brainstorming ways to engage students in classical music at the Hop, or counting neurons in rat brains at a research lab at DHMC.