Jane Peterson meets the Cascade Youth Symphony Orchestras

Monday, November 16, 2009

David Endicott, Executive Director of Cascade Youth Symphony Orchestras sent us this charming story, originally published by Aegis Senior Living of Shoreline.

They happen — maybe — once every ten or twenty years. Those “golden moments,” occasions when something extraordinarily memorable, maybe even precious, happens to you. Most recently for me it was meeting Jane Peterson, a resident of Aegis Living of Shoreline just north of Seattle. First, a little background.
              I’m the executive director of the Cascade Youth Symphony Orchestras (yes, it’s plural, identifying the five merit-based orchestra ensembles we run for young people from eight to 21 years old in our area). Preparatory Strings or “Prep Strings” is our entry-level ensemble comprised of those kids who have only played about a year on their musical instruments and are now ready to start playing in a group for the first time with other kids. This year we needed a new rehearsal facility for our Prep Strings kids in the Shoreline (North Seattle) area. So Aegis Executive Director Peter Brooks and his successor Marc Nowak invited our kids in to the Aegis Shoreline ballroom for one-hour rehearsals every Tuesday evening. We all thought, “who likes younger people better than older people,” and decided to give the idea a try.

              Our first weekly rehearsal was on the evening of Tuesday, October 13th, and none of us really knew quite what to expect. About a half-dozen kids and their two instructors arrived at the Aegis Living ballroom and started warming up. At this age and level of accomplishment, it might not always yet be seen as music from heaven, that is unless you look past the technical challenge to see the bright, beaming faces of the children excited about a first musical adventure — and beyond that, perhaps, stardom in a great hall in a symphony orchestra.

              After a few minutes in which the instructors were getting the kids to realize that they’re now part of a group of players, rather than just focusing totally on themselves, a few Aegis residents began wandering up to and past their ballroom where they normally do community meetings, exercise programs, lectures and other events. Curious, mostly, at this new sound coming from kids they’d never seen before. I understood this curiosity as a former, and once again current, instrumentalist (tuba) myself. I had been a music major for a while in college, and later served on the Board of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. You never really lose your love for music, I found.

              I watched for a little while, and then turned to see a nice looking little lady, dressed up in her totally color-coordinated warm-up suit, leaning intently on her walker and listening to the kids.   So, I introduced myself as the new executive director of the group.  She said, “Hello, I’m Jane Peterson.”  And we continued chatting intermittently, but mostly listening to the kids.

              Finally, it occurred to me to ask, “Jane, by any chance, have you ever played a musical instrument?” And Jane said, “Well, yes, I did. I played cello for many years in the Seattle Symphony.” Having been on the Symphony Board for several years and knowing some of the history of this wonderful orchestra, I asked, “You mean, you played under Milton Katims,” the man many claim led the Seattle Symphony out of the cultural dustbin and toward the world-class orchestra it has now become under Maestro Gerard Schwarz. Somewhat surprised but appreciative, Jane said, “Well, yes I did play then.”

              Astonished, I realized that Jane was making her own connection with a new group of musicians, some of whom quite possibly might go on and play in world-class orchestras themselves.   But, first, there was a little spadework they had to do. Work Jane herself had done many years ago.   And I realized what a small town this city of a million people still is, and what a special occasion I had stumbled upon.

              So, I said to her, “Jane, how would you like it if I put one a chair over here for you and you can just sit and watch for a while?” She gratefully accepted, sat down, and stayed there for nearly three-fourths of the kids’ rehearsal. Enjoying listening to her beloved cello again, as well as the violas and violins. Scraped notes and otherwise. And as I watched Jane lovingly listening and remembering, I realized this was not only my own golden moment — but hers, as well.  As I’ve heard them say at Aegis Living, “life happens here.” And so it does.

Photos of Jane Peterson and the Prep Strings rehearsal at Aegis Living of Shoreline

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