Friday, January 16, 2009

Opus 118, Way to Go!

I saw an all-too-brief segment on what I think was a CBS news show that featured a group of musicians from the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music this morning. This is the music school that grew out of the tireless work of violinist Roberta Guaspari nearly 25 years ago, and it seems to me that it represents everything that can be right about developing and maintaining a young and lively musical community within a larger community.

The television station showed the group of about 28 kids playing a portion of a very short piece, and, in their "newsy" way, they switched to an outdoor reporter, who said he liked what he heard. A promise for a performance later in the program kept me tuned to the station. The big moment came. The anchor asked Guaspari how much they practiced for their upcoming performance at one of the Inaugural balls (way to go, I say), and the vast gulf between the musician and the non musician reared its open mouth. These kids have been practicing all of their musical lives. The quality of their collective playing made it very clear to me that these are kids who practice all the time, year in and year out, both individually and collectively. What was the anchor thinking?

The group played a jazzy piece that I suppose they chose for TV audience appeal, and it was cut off before the end (or at least before the possibility of applause) with a quick cut to the guy out in the street who said something like, "Hey, isn't that the group that Meryl Streep made a movie about?" The anchor asked Guaspari, who answered in the affirmative, and they went to a commercial, and then onto other stuff.

Here is a short film about the school and the people who support it.

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