Backstage at the RSO

by Jack Truskowski

April 14, 2012 Concert

On Saturday, April 14th, the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra held its final concert of the season, which featured a collaboration with the Ridgefield Guild of Artists and the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance.  This article focuses on what happened backstage both before and after the concert.

Long before the concert began, the stage crew set up the stage with chairs and music stands.  For this concert, they also carefully hung artwork from the ceiling above the stage.  About a half hour before the concert began the crew moved outside to help with parking.  The stage crew consists of several high school aged boys who apply for the job, are intervied, and are selected to work part time for the RSO.

RSO musicians began to arrive about 30 minutes before the beginning of the concert.  Most set their instruments down to talk with other musicians for a few minutes before unpacking their instruments and moving to practice rooms or to the wings of the stage to warm up.  The hallways and the wings were soon extremely full with musicians walking back and forth while a harpist was intently foucused on tuning her harp, a process that took upwards of 15 minutes.

During the pre-concert talk by Maestro Jerry Steichen, the stage area was relatively quite with the exception of a few musicians and Gina Wilson, the Executive Director of the RSO.  They watched the pre-concert talk from behind the curtain and spoke when necessary in hushed voices.  After the talk was finished, and as attendees began to take their seats in the auditorium, the stage became louder and busier as musicians again warmed up backstage.

I was also backstage at the end of the concert to watch as the performers left and the stage crew took over.  As the auditorium emptied out the musicians began to leave as well.  However, a number of musicians remained on stage to talk amongst themselves.  The stage crew soon bagan to collect chairs and stands, working around the people still on the stage.  The stage crew then very carefully lowered the artwork from the ceiling.  According to Alex Keyes, one of the stage crew members, this took a significant amount of time because the crew wanted to ensure that not one peice of the beautiful artwork was the least bit damaged in the process.

Within an hour after the last note of the concert was played, the stage was cleared, the artwork was lowered and removed, and everyone was on their way.  It was another beautiful RSO concert evening, with only memories that remain.

November 11, 2011 Concert

The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday, November 19th featured youth musician Madeleine Bouissou, who is a junior at Ridgefield High School.  Madeleine was invited by RSO Music Director, Gerald Steichen, to be a soloist at Saturday’s concert.

Madi has been playing the cello since she was nine years old, and the cello was the first instrument that she ever played.  Despite coming from a family that did not play music, she quickly fell in love with the cello.  She was accepted into the Pre-college Program at the Juilliard School of Music when she was in 8th grade and continues to study in that Program.  Every Saturday she goes to Juilliard for a full day that includes private lessons, chamber music, pre-college orchestra, master classes, music theory and ear training.  Students from all over the world audition for this program.  Along with the Juilliard program, Madeleine also attends and plays at concerts on the weekends.

In addition to practicing 2-3 hours every day after school, Madi is also a very busy student at Ridgefield High School.  She has been taking extra classes each year becasue she hopes to graduate from RHS in June 2012, which is one year early.  Madi would like to study at Juilliard in college.  Every summer, Madi attends numerous music festivals and camps to continue her study of music and the cello.  These include the summer program at Bowdoin, the International Music Festival, adn the Meadowmount School of Music.

October 1, 2011 Concert

Before the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra’s October 1st concert, I had the privilege of speaking to the featured soloist and concertmaster, Jorge Avila, about the duties of the concertmaster. Mr. Avila has been the concertmaster of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra for 3 seasons, after being selected during a blind audition process.  During a blind audition, the applicants stand behind a curtain, so that the judges can hear the applicants without seeing them, to ensure that the audition is fair. However, in some cases the conductor of an orchestra can also appoint the concertmaster. The concertmaster does not have to re-audition every year, and as long as he/she does a good job, he/she can be concertmaster for essentially as long as they want. The primary job of the concertmaster is to help the conductor with all string-related issues, such as stylistic elements.  Mr. Avila also leads the strings during rehearsals and the concert.  Mr. Avila’s practice schedule varies daily, but he says that he typically practices anywhere between one and four hours, since he is so busy with rehearsals and other music-related activities.

Jack Truskowski is a member of the WCYO Symphony Orchestra.  Jack plays the oboe, English horn and saxophone.  He is a senior at Ridgefield High School.