I have known him for six years. For four of them, I was in his presence every Thursday night, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. My son was playing violin in the regional orchestra he was conducting. I used to bring my work with me during their practice, and I was grading papers, preparing for lectures, or simply reading. But almost always it was difficult to focus on what I had to do. The conductor was telling stories in which the repertoire became a character, so I was leaving my papers aside so that I could listen fascinated to those tales. But even more than that: he was giving children life lessons without lecturing them. He was inspiring them, and I often felt that I needed to be reminded of that inspiration as well.
It’s always impressive to see musicians coming together in an orchestra, relying on each other, and disappearing as individuals (but gaining personhood) so that beauty can take birth in their midst. It is even more impressive to see this in an orchestra with young children. How can one show them that the world is not about them, but rather about the beauty that they can create by cooperating with another? How can one tell children who are in the process of finding themselves by creating distances with others that a genuine way of discovery is to lose yourself in the beauty that is already prepared for you in music?
I think one kind of person can do that: someone who lives his life in giving oneself to beauty.
It is a strange phenomenon: beauty is there, awaits for you, but it comes truly to life only when you forget your desires and live for it in coming together with another.
Today, I saw the conductor’s last concert with this organization, Central Illinois Youth Symphony. For their last piece, many of his former students joined the current orchestra, and I could not stop thinking that this was an image of the beautifying of the world. In the many lives that he has touched, the conductor contributed to the goodness of these children’s souls, a goodness that now can spread in the world. A conductor: a human who gives oneself to others so that they have the strength to give themselves to what has already been prepared for them: music, the beauty of the world.
Thank you, maestro!