In defiance of tense times, more than 90 orchestra students in Moscow joined classmates Thursday evening to play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” simultaneously from their respective homes.
Janet McIntosh, an orchestra teacher with the Moscow School District, said with all of their regularly scheduled concerts canceled, this was a way to give K-12 students a taste of performance — albeit from the comfort of their own porches and front yards.
She said the original plan was for fourth- through 12th-grade students to play the tune as one full ensemble during their spring concert, which was originally scheduled for next week. On Thursday, she said, every student — and some parents — began playing their part throughout the city at 6 p.m.
“I call it ‘Front Porch Orchestra Night,’” McIntosh said. “We’re all playing from our own porches all over the city — I just thought it would be something fun for them to do.”
Music, particularly orchestra and concert band, is by nature a collaborative, community-driven practice. McIntosh said students at every level of instruction were able to join the effort at their own pace. She said she asked parents to take pictures of their students participating but the event was not recorded nor was it coordinated as a live event online.
Sixth-grade violinist June Kirchmeier said she was glad for the performance in part because it gave her the chance to connect with her peers.
“We’re all playing at the exact same time, the exact same piece — we might not be able to hear each other if we’re too far away but we all know that we’re all playing at the same time,” she said. “It’ll make me feel really happy because then I know that I’m doing something with other people, not just by myself.”
McIntosh said Thursday afternoon that after playing “Ode to Joy,” she and her neighbor, Moscow High School junior Eric Thorsteinson, would play a “mini-concert” together. She said the mini-concert would feature popular songs from hit movies including selections from Jurassic Park and the Harry Potter series.
Thorsteinson said he thinks of Front Porch Orchestra Night as an opportunity for students to showcase the music they’ve been working on all semester to their neighbors in lieu of a larger audience.
“It’s kind of playing by yourself while not really by yourself — you know there’s going to be other people playing but it’s still just only going to be you out there,” Thorsteinson said. “I think it’s gonna be really good for these students to get experience playing in different conditions — playing outside is a whole different story than playing in a performance hall.”
The goal of delivering music instruction through distance learning is slightly different from other classes, McIntosh said. While it is important that they continue to build musical skill, she said much of her work is merely intended to keep children interested and practicing.
She said not only did Thursday’s town-wide performance give students an event to prepare for and look forward to, but also gave her the ability to send her love and support to students she hasn’t physically seen in weeks.
“It’s important because I want them back, I miss them and I know they miss playing and I want them to know that I’m still thinking about them even in this difficult time,” McIntosh said. “Music is a way we can reach out to each other even though we’re not together.”
Scott Jackson can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.