Truckee alumni give students taste of music
In a large Truckee High School classroom crammed with brass instruments, drums, a xylophone and piano, three UC Davis students played Mozart Wednesday and answered student questions about music and college life.
Three university musicians, including two Truckee High graduates, comprise the UC Davis Woodwind Trio: Katie McKenzie on bassoon; Ben Aldridge, a clarinetist and McKenzie’s roommate; and Emma Gavenda, a flautist and singer from Albany, Calif.
The Lake Tahoe Music Festival brought the trio to Truckee High and Truckee Elementary School this week as part of its educational outreach program.
Program Director Rita Whitaker-Haun, herself a teacher at Truckee Elementary, said she enjoyed collaborating with the schools, and described the reaction of the grammar school students as memorable.
“They were totally mesmerized,” Whitaker-Haun said. “Because of the bassoon ” just the sound of it ” it blew their minds. They were sitting about 12 inches away.”
This summer Whitaker-Haun asked McKenzie if she would organize a trio of woodwind instrument players to help the Lake Tahoe Music Festival’s outreach program.
Whitaker-Haun said she was pleased with the outcome. Exposing young students to music and various instruments helped inspire sophisticated discussions among the second- through fifth-graders who attended.
“We got into discussions about pitch ” it was those type of scientific questions,” Whitaker-Haun said. “That higher level of thinking is why I put this together.”
As for the students in Truckee High Music Instructor David Green’s symphonic class, they were more interested in what it takes to be a music major and how much study time is required.
“I don’t have a lot of studying because I’m always rehearsing,” McKenzie told the students. Add rehearsal time to 18 hours of weekly work, and the Truckee native seems a lot busier.
Truckee senior Shawn Conway, who has played music for five years, said he was inspired by the level of skill the trio displayed, and the fact they agreed to spend time with the Truckee students.
“They’re trying to reach out to encourage kids to play,” Conway said. “Our music program needs the help and we need more kids to continue to take music classes.”
By visiting three Truckee classrooms, the woodwind trio assisted the Lake Tahoe Music Festival’s outreach program in attracting new audiences to classical music through education and exposure. This spring, the festival recruited the San Francisco-based Afiara String Quartet to perform and present interactive music clinics at Tahoe Lake, Kings Beach and Truckee elementary schools, the first of this year’s community outreach programs.
The spring program entertained 1,500 local students, while Wednesday’s smaller event was performed for about 100 students, according to Program Chair Domenic Favero.
“We had 77 teachers, countless parents and we received a tremendous response,” said Favero about the spring program. So much so that they were asked to do it again next year.
After playing for almost 50 Truckee High students, members of the UC Davis trio said if they were to come back and live in Truckee they would want to follow the festival’s example.
“I would play for the elementary students to get them interested in playing music,” Aldridge said.
That’s the kind of comment Whitaker-Haun wants to hear. She also manages the Truckee Youth Music Program, in which high school musicians give free music lessons to elementary students. The 27-year veteran of the Truckee school system said that events like Wednesday’s are important because it exposes children to music in a way they might otherwise never experience.
“I didn’t hear the cello until I was in the eighth grade, and now that’s my life,” said Whitaker-Haun, who plays cello for the Reno Philharmonic orchestra.
“Things like [music in schools] that are not happening in our busy world ” there is so much attention paid to sports ” but what about the child who was supposed to play the bassoon?” she asked. “It is important to allow music to feed our souls.”
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