Friday, November 18, 2005

Senior Perspective

This year is my fourth and last year as a member of the CSO. Of all the classes, activities, and commitments that have contributed to my experience at Cornell, the Symphony will remain one of my fondest memories of my time here. In high school and before, I inevitably felt “different” from other kids when I would rock out to Dvorak’s 9th instead of Green Day (although I hear they’re pretty good). Upon entering the CSO, I was glad to realize that others in my generation appreciated Stravinsky and Mahler as much as I did.
Along with this common bond of classical music training, one might imagine that everybody would be more or less similar in the orchestra. Yet I am consistently amazed each semester at how the orchestra is comprised of such a diverse group. The CSO is made up of students of all ages and disciplines, as well as the occasional faculty member. It impresses me how otherwise unknown members of the musical community emerge and unite to practice what they love. Many people on campus are unaware of the incredible musical talent displayed in the symphony, and it gives me great pride to notice a CSO member on campus and recognize the talent that they possess. As a result, I try as hard as I can on a personal level to spread awareness of the Symphony and its amazing performers.
I am also impressed with the repertoire chosen each semester. When I arrived as a freshman three years ago, John Hsu was in the midst of completing his Beethoven symphony series. This is a sizable endeavor for any orchestra, let alone a university orchestra comprised predominantly of non-music majors. In the same vein, Chris has done an admirable job of choosing interesting traditional works for the symphony, as well as providing opportunities to showcase contemporary works. This is beneficial for the composers, and it also helps us as an orchestra to explore the trends of music today. It is always more tempting to play a piece that everybody knows and will love to play and hear, but it is much riskier to choose unfamiliar works. I see it as an example that familiarity breeds liking, because while I often scoff at the modern works at the beginning, come concert time I have grown to appreciate them. Friends and family who attend the concerts also agree that the contemporary works provide a welcome diversity to the repertoire.
It’s rare that I get excited to sit down and complete the research paper I’ve been putting off for the last few weeks. Yet who doesn’t get excited when we crack that first chord in the Firebird? Academics can be fun and interesting, but they do not tap into one’s emotions the way we all know music can. For me, nothing can replace the familiar feeling I get when I walk into Lincoln B20 and warm up. From the days back when Professor Hsu was conducting Beethoven, to new leadership under Chris Kim, the CSO has remained a great escape from the often monotonous and usually painful academic week. I have been exposed to classic symphonic works with which I was unfamiliar, and I have learned to appreciate many of the contemporary artists that are emerging. I have gained a lot from my experience with the CSO, and I hope that my four years of dedication have contributed to the group as well. I look forward to a fun final semester of orchestra! - Paul Dumont, Psychology, '06 from November 2005 Whole Notes

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