Quintessence of Quinn and the JSO: students’ perspectives

Troy Quinn’s debut as Music Director of the Juneau Symphony Orchestra was a masterpiece. Here is one who couldn’t read music when he entered college, yet, as with the early maturation of Mozart and Schubert, has reached full maturity as a conductor. Although he stood in full view of the audience, he was not distracting in the least, for his gestures were precise, clear, and unobtrusively economical. By the way, he conducted the entire program without a score. This kept his eyes in constant contact with the players.

The program began with a stirring composition titled “Festive Orchestra” by Dmitri Shostakovich. It was time for the brasses to shine, and shine they did, exhilaratingly so! Their stentorian tones sent the strings a-running like a horse smelling oats, and the audience was swept up by the excitement and sonority.

Luanne Homzy stepped onto the stage to run her bow across our heartstrings with the well known but never tiring “Méditation” from the opera “Thaïs” by Jules Massenet. By the way, when she loosened the tension on the hair of her bow in order to allow it to play all four strings of the violin at once, the audience, believing the bow had broken, gasped. Then she secured her place in the hearts of her listeners with a rich, original, full-chorded composition inspired by her visit to Juneau.

The remainder of the concert, after intermission, was devoted to the ninth symphony, “From the New World,” by Antonin Dvořák. It was familiar to almost every ear in the auditorium. Its premiere performance in 1893 was an immediate success. The performance in Juneau was no less impressive on the ears of the audience.

Many of my music-appreciation students at UAS attended and recorded their observations about the conductor, the orchestra, and the guest soloist. Here are a few:

 

“I thought I was going to be really bored at the symphony but I actually enjoyed it.”

•••

“One of my favorite moments occurred when the violin soloist, Luanne Homzy, played her original composition inspired by her love of Juneau and its community. I was so amazed by her creativity and her ability to musically conceptualize an emotion she felt about a certain place, and then fluently convey its essence to others.”

•••

“I was thinking the whole time how an instrument, like a violin, can have so much meaning behind it . . . . I’m glad that I went and hope to attend more.”

•••

“I admired how talented Luanne Hamzy, who played a violin solo, was. I don’t usually like violins, because of their high notes that hurt my ears, but she made them sound elegant and I enjoyed listening to her play.”

•••

“I immensely enjoyed experiencing the exhilaration and beauty of my first Juneau Symphony concert, and I am so grateful for the opportunity our class had to attend the ‘New Beginnings’ performance! I loved every moment of being a part of the audience and feeling the sweeping music fill the auditorium and completely envelop me. I realize I still have so much to learn about all of the different facets of music – the technical aspects, various instruments, and intricate history, for instance – and glimpsing a little piece of the vast world of music this evening was as alluring as standing near a glistening golden doorway and just barely peering through. I wish I had a more extensive background and deeper knowledge about music in general, but even from an amateur perspective I was definitely able to appreciate and enjoy my evening listening to the orchestra. I loved how the concerts we read about in the pages of our textbook were completely animated and brought vibrantly to life.

•••

“It was so incredible to simply be immersed in music for an evening and to witness the perfect unison and synchronization of the orchestra, of so many instruments and people attuned to each other and collaborating to create a vivid, colorful harmony. I hope that this concert will also represent a new beginning for me as I learn more and experience more in that enthralling world I gaze at, just beyond a shining threshold.”

•••

“I took a few things away from watching this performance, but the main one is a true appreciation for the environment in which orchestral music is performed. It is entirely focused on the performers and teamwork they must have, as well as a constant lead by the conductor. All parts of the orchestra must be able to execute their part perfectly or the entire piece suffers as a result. That is what makes music an art – not the ability to play, but the ability to both perform and execute as a collective.”

•••

“All of my expectations of the symphony were blown sky high; I never imagined that a symphony in real life would sound so amazing. From now on, I will recommend going to a symphony to anyone, because there is no comparison between a live symphony, and a recording of one.”

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