Thirteen Sixth Graders from Coast Episcopal School in Long Beach traveled to New Orleans’ famous OrpheumTheater on Friday, March 17 to experience an Open Rehearsal of works by Chinese and Polish Composers performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Symphony and conducted by Rei Hotoda.
Accompanied by CES Music Teacher Jody Smith, Sixth Grade Teacher Angela Colegrove and six parents, the students were able to hear Zhou Long’s The Rhyme of Taigu and Bacewicz’ Concerto for String Orchestra being rehearsed for an evening performance at the historic, 1407 seat theater built in 1918.
Music Teacher Jody Smith explained that the goal of the trip was to enable the students to hear the sound of the instruments and absorb what is possible to create by a full orchestra and to experience the cultural enrichment of attending a symphonic performance. “Even if our students, each of whom are receiving instrumental instruction at our school, choose not to continue with lessons moving forward, they will have the confidence of understanding the pleasure that comes from attending a professional performance.”
Because the students attended an Open Rehearsal, they were able to observe the conductor providing direction to the musicians who were improving their performance slated for later that evening. Additionally, the students were able to observe the musicians from two vantage points: front row seats that enabled them to see the work of individual musicians just a few feet away from them and, later, from the theater’s highest balcony which provided them with the broader context of the symphony as a whole.
Prior to traveling to New Orleans, the students prepared for their musical journey by participating in a project devised by Art Teacher Tarah Herbert that integrated the sounds of the pieces they would be hearing with physical art. Each child put black marker to paper and created individualized art illustrating how the music they were hearing impacted them emotionally. “Observing the students’ individual creativity and also noticing the commonalities of elements in the pieces were exciting to me as an art teacher. The students were moved by the music, which was apparent in their art,” explained Ms. Herbert.
Funds for the New Orleans trip were provided by The Donald Theriot Memorial Fund for musical instruments, started nine years ago following the death in March 2014 of CES Grandparent and music lover Donald Theriot. Established by his wife, Kathleen, and two daughters, the fund is comprised of contributions from individual donations made in honor of Mr. Theriot. “We are just thrilled that the fund, which was made possible through the generosity of Don’s friends, has allowed Music Teacher Jody Smith to purchase so many new instruments.” Mr. Theriot’s daughter, Whitney Miller, who accompanied her sixth grade daughter, Piper, on the trip added, “It was so cool to see how engaged and interested our CES students were while watching the symphony. Don used to play classical music throughout our home, and he would have been so happy to watch Piper and the other Sixth Graders appreciate the experience.”
Donations to the fund with dollars directed solely toward musical instruments and an annual trip by the Sixth Grade to a symphony production are welcomed and accepted via check to Coast Episcopal School/memo: Donald Theriot Memorial Fund and mailed to CES, 5065 Espy Avenue, Long Beach, MS 39560.
Following Friday’s symphony performance, the students were treated to lunch at New Orleans’ stunning Roosevelt Hotel by John and Kathy Eastman, who lovingly support and respect Coast Episcopal School, its music program, and Kathy and the late Don Theriot.
Coast Episcopal School has been dedicated to a life-long love of learning by developing the whole child - mind, body and spirit - and providing a joyful, unique and nurturing Judeo-Christian Community that inspires its students to imagine and create a better world. Founded in 1950, CES is a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). For information: Coast Episcopal School, 228-452-9442, Coastepiscopalschool.org