By Jane Beseda
Photos by Marian Duntley (she’s dangerous with that cell phone)
Volunteering as a Symphonies for Schools docent at Disney Hall is one of the most rewarding benefits of our PCLAP membership. The concert hall brims with school kids for four exhilarating days in February, including 2 days for elementary schools, and a day each for intermediate and high schools. Volunteers greet the arriving school buses, and make sure each class is tucked into their assigned seats before the performance begins. Just as a hush falls over the concert hall, the volunteers slip into their own seats and become part of the magic created by 2000 spell-bound kids.
New docents are treated to a special orientation a few days before the series begins. This year’s session included a briefing on how the program is organized, how schools apply, and a sample of the pre-concert education sessions conducted by Speakers Bureau volunteers at 45 schools, in 129 classrooms, for 3500 students. The orientation ended with a fascinating backstage tour. Did you know there is an electronic E that the musicians tune to just behind the stage doors?
On the morning of each concert, the Phil staff provide detailed instructions for the day, while the docents listen intently. Not to worry—if you forget something, there are always seasoned veterans nearby to lend a hand. And experts from the Hollywood Bowl handle the critical job of directing the bus drivers to their parking slots.
This year’s concerts, conducted by Ben Gernon, LA Phil Conducting Fellow, featured Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker for elementary students, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the upper grades. The fabulous Debbie Devine added elements of story-telling and dance to the musical performances, making them resonate in a personal way with the young audiences. The Vivaldi concerts also introduced 90 second themes written by four teenage composers, one of whom was clarinetist Andrew Moses, who performed at a PCLAP Salon last year.
The Symphonies for Schools series is over for this year, but make a mental note to sign up early next year when the call comes out for volunteers, as the spots fill up quickly. In addition to the psychic rewards you’ll enjoy from the experience, the Phil offers two free Hollywood Bowl tickets for every day you work. What could be better than that!