John Oyler: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performers join middle school concert |
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I don’t pay much attention to the various award shows, probably because I don’t know any of the contestants. This year, however, I did skim over the hoopla associated with the Grammys and was surprised to see that the Pittsburgh Symphony was one of the winners.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get the publicity locally that this achievement warrants. A performer known as Bruno Mars was the big star, winning six awards in “popular” categories.

I eventually located the category entitled “Best Orchestral Performance, Classical Field,” and sure enough, the PSO was there.

Their competition was significant — the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Their list of conductors was equally impressive, though I prefer our Maestro Manfred Honeck to all of them. He, too, is a recent awardee — the Artist of the Year, by International Classical Music Awards.

The PSO entry was a recent recording of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”

I think the fact that our local orchestra has been honored for producing the best orchestral record in the world should be widely publicized and loudly applauded.

Fortunately, I was among those fortunate few who do appreciate serious music on a recent evening in Sewickley. My granddaughter is heavily involved in the Quaker Valley Middle School strings program and performed recently at their “For the Love of Music” fundraiser. About three dozen middle schoolers performed in a variety of combinations.

Perhaps the neatest thing they did was a semi-flash mob version of a tune called “Flop Eared Mule.”

The program listed two bass players as performers. They set up on the stage and began the piece. Suddenly four cellos joined them and picked up the beat, shortly followed by violins, violas, guitars and ukuleles parading all around the auditorium. A very infectious event.

The highlight of the evening was the arrival of four members of the Pittsburgh Symphony — first violinists Chris Wu and Kelsey Blumenthal, violist Paul Silver and principal cellist Anne Martindale. After they were introduced and received the proper acknowledgment of their being Grammy stars, they took their place on the stage.

They were then joined by a student quartet that included our granddaughter to play together Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and a medley of John Williams’ “Star Wars” themes.

The PSO quartet then played four other pieces, much to the delight of the audience, then broke up so they could mingle with the student musicians and their parents. It was a real treat to hear the professional musicians close up and observe their obvious joy in their craft. Talking to them afterward, it was equally obvious that these are very special people, with a real commitment to music and to sharing it with young people.

The director of the strings program and producer of this specific event is Corrie Nye. I am grateful that my very special granddaughter has had the opportunity to be part of this specific program.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or [email protected]. Read more from him at

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