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Classical Music Month

Classical Music. For those who think they haven’t had exposure to classical music, some adjectives that may come to mind are inaccessible, hoity-toity, and antiquated. To counter this, rather than giving a music history or music theory lesson, I thought I’d write a little about the role of classical music in my life: the doors it’s opened, and the joy it continues to bring me. As a child, for some unknown reason, I wanted to play the violin. After years of asking, my parents signed me up for lessons, and rented an instrument for me. I have some sympathy for what their ears had to endure as I practiced those first few years. I progressed, eventually spending several weeks a summer at Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp, where I auditioned for an international orchestra. To my parents’ surprise (which they only confessed when I was an adult), I was accepted. Nobody in my family had traveled internationally, and I had the privilege of spending two summers touring Europe, playing a variety of classical repertoire with a group of young musicians. Of course, this was of immense value musically, but I was able to learn so much more beyond the music during those tumultuous teenage years. I learned to lean into (or at least cope with) experiences that were outside my comfort zone: not understanding a language, eating foods that I may not have had before or liked, being resilient even when physically exhausted, and being an ambassador for my own country. For me, these are doors that were opened by my ability to play classical music, and these experiences inspired a lifelong love of travel and languages, as well as activating some courage that until that point was not something I easily accessed.

As an adult, I do still play violin in the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, and attend concerts when I’m able. This may sound melodramatic, but when I see an orchestra play, it feels like an expression of the best part of being human. Dozens of people, who have all spent decades honing a skill, largely out of the pure joy of doing it, sit on a stage together. They’ve spent hours and hours in music theory classes, music history, performing recitals, and teaching the next generation of musicians. They have a diversity of native languages and countries, ethnicities, beliefs, ideologies, and interests. A piece of sheet music is put on all of the stands, and a conductor steps to the podium. Even if the conductor doesn’t share a fluent language with the musicians, the language of conducting transcends this, and all of the individual players collaborate to create something beautiful. Something that isn’t a basic need, but a work of art that requires many talented individuals working hard on their own to learn their part, but then also working together to operationalize the vision of the conductor. This luxury – to spend a lifetime developing a skill for this purpose- is unique to humankind, and I think shows the best of us. Humans have spent so much time and development on weapons, greed, and power- seeking; an orchestra performance gives me hope that we are still capable of producing beauty too.

For those who may not think the world of classical music is accessible, look no further than Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter. So many film scores have wonderful and complex music behind them, that can certainly stack up to (and is often inspired by) the ‘classics.’ The music of Jaws would not exist without Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony ( You don’t have to be an expert in history, the mechanics of music theory, or even all of the instruments to enjoy this music. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) (and many professional symphonies) actually performs the music of movies to live screening of the films, which can be a wonderful first introduction to this world. The CSO is starting over the Harry Potter series this year, with the first movie in January. They also perform numerous shows at Red Rocks each year, with everything from Dvotchka to Broadway stars. And most communities in the Denver metro area have local community orchestras that give concerts regularly as well. I would encourage you to give a concert a try if you have the opportunity- at worst, it should be a relaxing evening, and at best you might discover a new interest, or even be inspired to learn an instrument, or encourage your children in such an endeavor.