By Layne Alfred
The Mason Times
With funding to schools’ music programs being cut all around the country, Mason continues to help not only children in being able to play music, but also adults, even while managing full-time jobs.
The Mason Orchestral Society includes two main ensembles: the Mason Philharmonic, for middle school and high school students, and the Mason Symphony, for adults of all ages.
Many of the children in the philharmonic attend schools that do not have full music programs. “My high school doesn’t have a string section, so it’s good to practice with people who play string instruments,” said Amelia Mills, who attends Mason High School. “It’s a good way to connect with people from different high schools.”
Sebastian Liu, an eighth-grader at Okemos Middle School, said that although his school has a music program, he is happy to be part of the Mason Orchestral Society instead. “My school music is easy, here I get a challenge. And I like being the only violist.”
The Orchestral Society is a part of Mason that is meant for fun and making connections with others that have similar interests, but the fact that it has been maintained has great effect on the American society as a whole. Budget cuts on schools art and music programs make being part of a classical symphony increasingly difficult.
Brittney Brewster, conductor of the Mason Philharmonic, said, “It may feel like there is an oversupply of classical musicians, but the amount of symphony orchestras are starting to dwindle due to budgets cuts. This makes getting into a symphony orchestra even harder than it has been before. I think it is an issue that we are cutting, as a nation, funding from the arts and watching an art form start to disappear.”
Not only have budget cuts been an issue, but Brewster said she sees a close-minded approach to classical music nowadays. This has made getting an audience more of a challenge than ever.
“A few years ago, we were struggling to get a larger audience besides the spouses and family members of our orchestras,” said Brewster. “Our audience is starting to grow by word of mouth and getting our performances out to the press.” Brewster said that people in Mason and surrounding areas are intrigued that they had never heard of the Mason Orchestral Society before.
“We are a community organization,” said Sarah Pechtel, president of the board. “We tend to get our family and friends.”
Efforts have been put forth in the recent years to boost audience rates, however. “How do we get people interested in classical music?” said Gail Richmond, the orchestra’s personnel manager, who has been in the orchestra for more than 10 years. She explained how the symphony has incorporated dancers from a local ballet company, guest soloists, and have performed pop music at their concerts. “That also expands our audience.”
Suren Petrosyan, who has been conducting the Mason symphony for a year, said that the issue is not usually about obtaining an audience; it is about a music-loving community coming together. “People will never lose interest in classical music.”
Not this group of individuals, anyway. “These are people who have other jobs and just love music, this is their outlet,” said Richmond. “When we come together, it’s all about making music.”