Conveying the classics: Maestro urges students’ musical talents |

Conveying the classics: Maestro urges students’ musical talents

Katherine Morris

Photo by Colin FisherString players from Incline Village joined young musicians at Truckee Elementary for the first time last week for a workshop with Reno Philharmonic Maestro Barry Jekowski.

With the slightest wave of the conductor’s baton, all chatter and giggles cease and the students are ready to play.

“It is very important that you keep your eyes on the conductor at all times because he’s always watching you to see who is paying attention and who isn’t,” Conductor Barry Jekowsky tells the 30 or so young musicians arranged in a semi-circle before him.

Jekowsky, conductor and music director of Reno’s Philharmonic Orchestra and several youth orchestras, made a special trip to Truckee Elementary last Friday morning to give one local group of budding maestros a musical “workout.”

“The purpose of today is to give these students a chance to see what it would be like to be part of a real orchestra,” Jekowsky says. “I mainly came here today to have fun, though – not just to work.”

Dressed in all black, the man with a mustache and gentle voice, led the group through a series of exercises and songs – interspersing musical vocabulary lessons here and there.

The workshop featured musicians from Truckee Elementary’s Sierra Strings Youth Orchestra, as well as string players from Incline High School.

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The Sierra Strings program affords students in the Truckee and North Tahoe area the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.

“This is really incredible because we really have Tahoe-Truckee represented here today,” said Rita Whitaker-Haun, who leads the Sierra Strings program. “These two groups of students that you see here today have never played together.”

Even though the two groups had been practicing the pieces independently of one another, it didn’t show through in the seamless performance the group gave.

“Aren’t they just great?” Jekowsky asked the approximately 40 students, parents and community members in the audience.

Whitaker-Haun added that she likes to try to pair up young students with older ones.

“I want to thank all of the children from Truckee, who’ve been tolerating me for the last few weeks while we’ve been preparing for this,” she added letting out a growl.

Aside from tips on tone and tempo, Jekowsky tried to provide his pupils with lessons on life and music, in general.

“I’m in the minority in that I absolutely love what I do for my job,” he said. “I want you to love what you do, too.”

He also talked to them about the importance of asking questions.

“If you’re going to be an excellent student, whether it be in school or as a musician, you have to ask questions all the time,” he said. “Really, that’s the only way you will ever learn and improve. The same thing is truth in life. If you don’t understand something, ask questions about it.”

By the end of the hour-long workshop, even the audience members had been inspired to pick up a new instrument.

One little platinum blond girl told Jekowsky she wanted to play in an orchestra.

“You just made my year by saying that,” he said with a smile.

“If I can say anything to the parents and teachers here today, it would be that you need to do everything you can to provide these types of opportunities to your children,” he said. “You can enlist my help and the help of the Reno Philharmonic, to get music programs going in the all of the schools up here.”