We’re launching our 22nd season this year. Lot of years, lot of directors, lots of kids, and lots of stories. Middle School students who started with us at age 12 would now be 33 years old. Yikes! Some bring their own ensembles to a festival. It’s a sobering thought, but a very gratifying one.
I remember the director who answered his ringing cell phone while onstage directing his band, then ran down the theatre aisle mid-performance to hand his phone to me. On the other end was a mom looking for her daughter at the festival. Wouldn’t you know the daughter’s name was Katie? There were probably 45 Katie’s at that festival that morning. Yes, we found Katie.
Then there were directors who arrived at the festival teary-eyed because they were retiring and this was their last outing with their students. They cared so deeply for their students over a lifetime of teaching. Forum Festivals played a part of their programs for so many years. I was honored that we were friends and partners. I shall never forget them and I think of them quite often.
One school’s entire clarinet section forgot their instruments at home a few years ago. One adjudicator was on the faculty where the festival was scheduled that morning. “Wait just a minute,” he said and he left the theatre. He scrambled around in the college band room and found clarinets for most of the section. (Yes, they had their own mouthpieces with them – go figure).
I’ve observed many acts of generosity between music students of different schools. It’s so heartwarming when kids just stand up spontaneously to applaud another school’s performance with no nudging from adults.
Last year, in the Bay Area, we welcomed a wind ensemble with a very talented young oboe player. He really was quite phenomenal which became more and more apparent during the performance. No surprise to anyone that he was awarded an Outstanding Student Musician award. Following awards, the other students emptied the theatre and formed two lines in the lobby (no prompting from the adults). As the oboist left the theatre and walked between his classmates, they broke out in spontaneous applause, clapping him on the back as he passed. It meant the world to this young musician. He will never forget it and I was thrilled to be there to experience it.
So, on the eve of our 22nd season, I’m pondering the stories along with the music that I’ve been privileged to witness. Over the past 22 years, we think we’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the less-than-graceful. But most of it has been good – and that is for sure.