If you were to walk into most symphony halls throughout the nation, you would find a lot of gray hair. As one who is getting more and more gray hair each and every day, I am quite aware of this phenomenon; for I am one that you would find in a symphony hall. This is not to say it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it is a reality.
Art music in any form—classical, jazz, avant-garde, and the like—usually don’t have the same appeal to younger people as pop music, country, and rock do.
So when it came to my attention that a symphony orchestra is reaching out to a younger audience and performers, my interest perked—especially when the music is not being compromised.
New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest and its musical director, Michael Bowen, are truly unique.
Over a year ago, Michael had a yearning to involve young people with the orchestra. One way to do it, he thought, would be to provide opportunities for gifted young musicians to have an opportunity to perform with the orchestra.
So that’s exactly what he did.
For the upcoming New Life Symphony concert, Michael invited eighteen-year old clarinetist, Katrina Clements, to be the soloist for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major.
Katrina, a life-long Albuquerque, New Mexico resident, recently met me for an interview concerning her upcoming concert.
Katrina told me that she began playing piano at age six and moved on to the clarinet at age eight. As a homeschooled student, she joined the local home school band; picking up the clarinet because they told her the French horn was too large for her.
By age eleven, Katrina was playing with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, the state’s premiere orchestra for talented youth under eighteen.
I asked her what music meant to her.
“Music is my passion. Once I get beyond the notes and rhythm, it becomes the means by which I express myself. So being able to touch someone with music is wonderful. Essentially, music is a language, an avenue in which I am privileged to communicate with other human beings.”
I asked Katrina how long she has been working on the Mozart concerto.
“Well, I first heard the concerto in eighth grade. I fell in love with it. I told my mom that someday I wanted to play this with a symphony.
“I began to work on the first movement in eleventh grade. Overall, I worked on the concerto for two years.”
What did you do with it then? I asked.
“My teacher and I decided to enter a recording of myself playing it to the Santa Fe Pro Musica Young Artists’ Competition.
“The judges heard the recording and liked it. They invited me to perform at the competition. As it turned out, I won the Grand Prize. After that, I performed it with the Albuquerque Youth Symphony.”
So how did you get in contact with Michael Bowen? I inquired.
“In November 0f 2009, Michael Bowen asked me to perform it with the New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest. I was pleased to do so. So in a way, my dream has come true: I am performing it with a symphony.”
In addition to her musical performances, Katrina teaches music lessons, will be attending the University of New Mexico, and is involved with her church, St. Bernadette.
I asked Michael why he chose a teen soloist.
“There are so many talented young people in our state and country. I felt that our symphony needed to reach out to our community here in New Mexico by giving teenagers a musical voice.
“Additionally, Katrina represents what New Life Symphony Orchestra is about: a group of musicians that gather for God’s glory. We yearn that the music—and the message of the composer’s life—ring loud and clear in our performances. For us, the music is the medium in which we tell people of God’s love.
“So a great musician and a lovely Christian girl such as Katrina characterize who we are as a symphony.
“In essence, our hope is that the music—and Christian life—of many of the master composers will impact the life of young musicians we come into contact with, allowing New Life Symphony Orchestra Southwest to touch the future—through the young musicians—with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The forthcoming performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass will be performed June 6th, 2010, at Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.