By Adam Harris
For the 67th year, kids from the greater Waco area will file into Waco Hall to experience a concert of classical music performed by the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.
Today, buses will line the streets in front of Judge Baylor’s statue to receive what could be the students’ first taste of live symphony music as performed by Baylor’s award-winning group of musicians.
Stephen Heyde, director of orchestral studies, has coordinated the tradition since he arrived at Baylor in 1984.
He said the goal of the concert is to introduce the kids to a new culture they might not find in other situations.
“This is an uninterrupted tradition since 1946,” Heyde said. “There’re a lot of people who I see around town that say, ‘Do you still do those children’s concerts?’ And I think that’s something special.”
The performance features music popular in the classical music genre, Heyde said. It also provides students an opportunity to step into the role of conductor and lead the orchestra. One of these conductors, Corsicana master’s student Stephanie Colburn, is looking forward to her first year of involvement with the concert.
“It’s a great thing for kids in the area because it gives them awareness about musical instruments and gets them interested in the music,” Colburn said.
Colburn discussed one point in the concert at which the different sections of the orchestra hold up their instruments to show off what parts of the group each sound is coming from.
Colburn will conduct a medley put together by Garrison senior Taylor Williamson.
“A lot of the stuff has been used in movies before, so they might perk their ears a little bit,” Colburn said.
The arrangement by Williamson combines three pieces that are prevalent in pop culture.
“It was this summer, and Professor Heyde came to me and asked if I could write a piece that was a medley, so we wanted to pick three songs that were really well-known to the literature in the orchestra,” Williamson said.
The three pieces chosen by Williamson were Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana (O, Fortuna),” Giacomo Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma, and Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”
“Not only are they prominent in the literature, they’re also really well known amongst the general public,” Williamson said.
For Williamson, choosing the music wasn’t the difficult part. He said he found a challenge in creating transitions between the three.
“It was difficult to figure out how to work from one piece to the next and make it cohesive,” Williamson said. “(Heyde) said to pick three pieces and that there would be talking in between them by the narrator.”
The concert will include narration by KXXV-TV Channel 25 news anchor Ann Harder.
Along with the narrator, the performance will feature dancers acting out a routine from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” while the orchestra performs the movement titled “March.”
Planning for the event begins during the spring semester, Heyde said, and gives the parties involved plenty of time to prepare for a full and enriching experience.
The event is sponsored by the Waco Symphony Council as well as the school districts involved with the program.
Heyde said the pieces are selected and then a downloadable packet is presented, giving teachers a chance to prime the students before attending the performance.
“It’s almost like a teaching plan for the first six weeks of school,” Heyde said.
With almost 6,000 students set to attend the three concerts in Waco Hall, the concert presents the performers and children alike with an enriching and fulfilling display of classical music.
“When you go out on the stage and see all of these kids out there, it’s a different experience than when you’re playing in front of professors and colleagues,” Williamson said. “It’s pure joy going into what you’re doing.”