Houston Symphony Magazine From the Orchestra September 2011

On behalf of all of us onstage, welcome to the 98th season of the Houston Symphony, one of the most exciting in our history! As we celebrate Maestro Graf's penultimate season, we will also be welcoming some of the best new conducting talents in the world as we continue the search for a successor. Add to this visits from many of the world's top soloists, a season full of the greatest music ever written, a world premiere, a visit from former music director Christoph Eschenbach, and a return engagement at Carnegie Hall next spring and you can see why we are so eager to share this coming season with you!

The beginning of the symphony season coincides with the start of the school year and a time when many children consider learning a musical instrument. There are a growing number of studies showing the broad benefits that children gain from studying an instrument; everything from improved spatial perception and concentration to improved self-confidence and self-expression, without even beginning to consider the cultural value music adds to the child's life. Venezuala' El Sistema program has been taking at-risk children off the streets and training them to play classical instruments. Some do go on to become professional musicians, but the discipline and devotion they all learn in the study of classical music helps all of them become successful adults. Indeed, the more the evidence mounts of the broad ranging beneficial effects of musical study, the more it seems wrong that not every child has a chance to learn. The Houston symphony, partnered with Fidelity Investments, has begun a new program to help restore and enhance music programs to as many schools as we can reach, but for those fortunate enough to have the opportunity, nothing replaces private study with an instructor.

Many of my friends tell me “my child took lessons, but he didn't like it” or “she didn't show any great talent and didn't like practicing, so we stopped” But I could never imagine the same parents saying “my child tried reading, but didn't really like it so we stopped” I promise you that every person onstage tonight had times when they didn't like it and fought against practicing. Practicing is hard, and not always fun, but it is precisely because we do something difficult and slowly learn to master it that music builds our confidence and our brains. Today we are conditioned by the myth of genius to feel that if our child doesn't show instant talent or passion for something, we should move on and look for some area where they can excel with less effort. But the notion that most successes are Mozart-like prodigies is just wrong. Even Mozart didn't write his greatest works until he was in his thirties and virtually every musician is much more the product of hard work than inherent gifts. The greatest benefit of music study is not for those for whom it is easy, but for those for whom it is hard. I teach my daughter music not because I want her to become a musician, but because I want he to know that with persistence and consistent work she can master any challenge in her life. I hope all of you will consider giving your children and grandchildren the gift of music education- the benefits are truly life changing. Enjoy the concert!