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Talk of the Town: The symphony needs us, and I'm ready to take the baton

Although I’ve spent almost two decades in the broadcasting industry and almost two years as a columnist, no one would accuse me of having a way with words. Try as I might, painting a mental picture with words has never been my strong suit.

How then do I begin to describe the effect of music performed by the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale on one’s soul?

Surrounded by music as a kid, I took piano lessons, sang in the choir and played the trombone in the school band. However, I wouldn’t consider myself a musician, let alone "symphony material." I always figured I would "grow up" and become a season ticket holder to places like the theater and the symphony. I liked the idea of being able to say, "This weekend? Oh, we’re going to the symphony with the Carringtons from the country club."

But we don’t belong to a country club, and I’ve yet to feel like I "belong" at the symphony.

A few years ago, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale asked if I would help with a new event called Symphony 101. It was the perfect thing for people like me who don’t know much about spending a night at the symphony. We were introduced to some of the instruments and musicians, learned about the etiquette of when to applaud, and heard from Maestro Jere Lantz about what he is doing while conducting each piece. After the class, we headed off to that night’s performance, full of excitement and new knowledge, and eager to listen to the orchestra in a new way.


What a feeling as that first wave of music swept over me! The low notes were vibrating through my chest and the quick pace caused my heart to race. I still didn’t know much about the piece we were hearing or about the composer who wrote it, but I quickly realized why people fall in love with the symphony.

Possibly you think "classical music is not for me!" Well, I thought so, too, until I watched these musicians playing so perfectly together and felt the emotions a beautifully played piece can stir in my heart. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the symphony plays LOTS of different music, including the upcoming performance of Starry Night, featuring a jazz singer backed by her own jazz combo. Maybe you should try a night at the symphony, too.

This year I was honored to be named one of five Aspiring Conductor candidates for the RSOC. This is the fifth year they have used this contest as a fun and high-profile way to engage new audiences and support the orchestra. Five candidates vie for the title of Aspiring Conductor. In addition to myself, the candidates are Phil Henoch, Anne Judisch, Mitch Stevenson and Jon Eckhoff. Each candidate tries to raise the most donations possible for the RSOC. Whoever raises the most money will direct one song during the Starry Night concert — after receiving a lesson from Lantz.

On behalf of all the candidates, we would LOVE for you to send some votes/donations to us so that we can make this a successful fundraiser. (If you don’t know whom to vote for, might I suggest you write M-c-C-r-a-y in the memo line of your check.) Call the symphony at 286-8742 for more information.

The thought of possibly directing any song with all those talented musicians in front of me and a whole audience behind me is both exciting and nauseating at the same time! I don’t know if I’m up to the task, but I do know the symphony needs us. I’m up for anything I can do to help keep the symphony going, even if that includes possibly making a fool of myself on stage.

Now, there is one thing I CAN do!

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