For most serious music students, the chance to play a concerto with an orchestra behind them is a far-off dream, achieved only through grueling competitions or sheer luck. But thanks to the Tacoma chapter of the Washington State Music Teachers Association, any local student can have that opportunity in the chapter’s annual Orchestra Concerto Series, Monday through May 22 at First Lutheran Church and Schneebeck Hall at the University of Puget Sound.
“I like it when I just play by myself, but when I play with an orchestra it’s really amazing,” said 11-year-old piano student Abigail Park at a rehearsal.
Thanks to the chapter’s fundraising efforts and some fees paid by parents, any student of a Tacoma chapter teacher can play on a full grand piano with an orchestra of local college students in a professional hall — even if the student is just a beginner. This is the 24th year of the series, which will feature 80 students playing over seven nights. The youngest student is 6 years old. The repertoire spans beginner books with teacher-written accompaniment to Beethoven’s mighty “Emperor” concerto.
“It’s hard at first, getting everything accurate,” says Richard Ahn, who at 14 is a nine-year veteran of the concerto series. He’ll be playing the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor at Schneebeck on May 22. “I’m a little nervous. But (I like it because) there’s a big group of people that support you as you play, so if you mess up it will come back together again.”
Younae Hwang, who teaches Ahn and Park at her studio in Mill Creek, sees the learning value of the series, as well as the chance for students to showcase their talent.
“They need to develop skills and listen to the orchestra, become one with the orchestra,” Hwang says. “Even during rehearsal they sit in the audience and listen to other musicians. It is great learning.”
The concerts are free and open to the public, although donations are accepted.
“Students get to play with an orchestra on a noncompetitive basis,” says Paul Twedt, a Tacoma piano teacher who began the series privately 26 years ago before it became a chapter event. “Usually getting to do that is a very grueling experience, and then they only choose one (soloist). We want to give everyone the opportunity to do this.”
“It’s fun, says Park, who’ll perform at First Lutheran on May 21. “The orchestra helps give (the music) a lively feeling.”
Tacoma Music Teachers’ Concerto Series
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and May 20 and 22 at Schneebeck Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma; 7:30 p.m. Thursday and May 21 at First Lutheran Church, 524 S. I St., Tacoma.