Before launching into "Finlandia" by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius,the tuxedo-clad musicians seated in the back row of the brass section hoisted their French horns skyward, appearing more like members of a marching band than a symphony orchestra.
But there was good reason for unusual lack of decorum. Many of the members of the audience had probably never seen a real French horn--or a cello, or a viola, or a bassoon, for that matter--and they wanted to be sure that everyone got a good look.
The audience was about 1,000 enraptured students from three elementary schools, who gathered Wednesday in the darkened Fullerton College auditorium for a special morning performance of the Fullerton Symphony.
The 45-minute educational concert--complete with a jazzy rendition of Beethoven's "Fifth," ill-timed applause and smiles from musicians--was designed to generate interest among the kindergarten to sixth-grade students of Raymond, Golden Hill and Commonwealth schools in a new program to begin next fall to expand the music curricula at schools already struggling under budget constraints.
"Every year the music program is put on a list to be cut, and every year we get put back in," said Lauralyn Eschner, arts research specialist for the Fullerton School District. "We want an expanded program that will give students an opportunity. But we are always worried about being cut" from the budget.
The Audio Sensory Perception Development pilot program is planned to begin next fall at Raymond Elementary, where students do not have a string-instrument curriculum. The program will serve as a supplement to fill gaps in funding from the district budget and, if successful, would expand to other schools lacking a full music program.
Wednesday's concert was an effort to cultivate interest in students willing to participate by staying after school to learn an instrument. The symphony members and Fullerton College would work with the school to hold drives to collect used instruments, raise money for student scholarships and provide volunteer teachers for after-school lessons.
At Wednesday's performance, the students sat with feet dangling as the conductor, David Lewis, took time between each piece to explain which instruments to listen for and how each is key to the overall sound of the orchestra. The 70-piece symphony played short bursts of classical music broken down so students could listen to the woodwind section, then the brass instruments and finally the strings before the entire orchestra played the piece together.
"We kind of wanted to share ways in which the symphony could be supportive of music in the schools," Lewis said. "This is part of a long-range plan to prepare for what we hope will be a strong string program in the schools."
Though the program is still in its early stages, Lewis has worked with Raymond Elementary this spring to have musicians visit the school to demonstrate wind and string instruments.
Throughout the show, students drummed their fingers and watched the bows of the violin section bob and weave in unison.
Robert Pinsky, a computer programmer at Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, who took the morning off to play bass in the concert, said: "Kids that age can learn the violin and piano; they just need someone to show them how."