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Boise Phil’s maestro recalls the moment he experienced “the most beautiful music I’d ever heard.”

On March 30, the Boise Philharmonic hosts its Youth Education Luncheon, celebrating a 30 year-plus relationship with Idaho schools.
Boise Philarhmonic
On March 30, the Boise Philharmonic hosts its Youth Education Luncheon, celebrating a 30 year-plus relationship with Idaho schools.

The best musical talents have something in common with nearly all of us – there was that first moment when live orchestral music opened a window we never knew existed before. For Eric Garcia, it was Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

“I remember just being enthralled by these sounds I’d never heard before,” said Garcia. “It was the most beautiful music I’d ever heard.”

Garcia is the music director of the Boise Philharmonic, and along with Jennifer Drake, director of the Boise Phil Youth Orchestra, they’re opening a whole new set of windows.

“It's no secret that every musician of the Boise Phil is where we are today because we were exposed to music at an early age,” said Garcia.

Just prior to a special event where they’ll celebrate the Phil’s 30 years+ of working with Idaho educators and school districts, Garcia and Drake visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice.

“You really are learning to speak something entirely unique, something that translates across the globe.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. The Boise Philharmonic's relationship with children… and particularly schools… has continued for generations. And there is something magical about being in the presence of a boy or girl and their first experience of hearing orchestral music… live. Boise Philharmonic Music Director Eric Garcia has created much of that magic. Eric Garcia Good morning.

ERIC GARCIA: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me.

PRENTICE: And Jennifer Drake is here. She is the Director of the Boise Phil Youth Orchestra. Jennifer, good morning.

JENNIFER DRAKE: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: Maestro, can you speak about that moment? It’s a bit like opening a magical wardrobe when orchestral music enters a child's life. What was that like for you?

GARCIA: Oh, that's a great question.  For me, undoubtedly it was for classical music. It was in the third grade. I was in my music class, kind of all-encompassing music class. And my teacher, thank goodness, played an excerpt from this American composer named Aaron Copland… and this work entitled Appalachian Spring. And it would not be another three or four years until I heard the work complete, but I remember just being enthralled by these sounds I'd never heard before. It was the most beautiful music that I'd ever heard, and it was just so different than what I was hearing on the radio and seeing on television. And so for me, I will never forget Aaron Copland… Appalachian Spring… and wow.

PRENTICE: Jennifer, how about what was your experience?

DRAKE: When I was in fifth grade, my school orchestra class, I started playing the viola. In fifth grade, my school orchestra class went to go hear a performance of the Detroit Symphony. And what I really remember about this is this wasn't a specially designed program for children. We were all hauled in to go hear Beethoven 9. And I just remember hearing the power of the choir and the orchestra together, and I was just hooked from that point forward.

PRENTICE: Jennifer Drake, talk to me about what will be happening this week… Wednesday, the 30th.

DRAKE: Wednesday, the 30th is our youth education luncheon. We're going to be getting together education, business and civic leaders to join all together at the Grove Hotel. We're going to have a luncheon with some special guest speakers. We've got a youth orchestra member, Alexis Bravo, who is going to speak about the impact the Boise Philharmonic education programs have had on his life. A member of the Boise, Phil, Molly McCallum, one of our violinists, she is also going to be speaking about the impact. And local community leader Kara Jackson, a former viola player in the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. They're all just going to be speaking about how music education has touched their lives and assisted them in becoming the people they are today.

PRENTICE: Eric Garcia, could you talk about that intangible benefit of music for a student and how it enhances learning in so many other disciplines?

GARCIA: Absolutely. Well, first of all, I will start with Boise, Phil's core belief that the Boise Phil's youth education program provides a pathway to a deeper, more enduring connection to music as an art form and as a vital element of a well-rounded education. And it's no secret that every musician of the Boise Phil is where we are today, because we were exposed to music at an early age, as you asked, and as a result, our imaginations were ignited. So learning music to me is no different than learning another language. And so to me, it really encompasses everything that we need to know to be individuals in this world and to be team players and members of a bigger self. But the fact that I compare it to another language is, I think to me the most important thing, because you really are learning to speak something entirely unique, something that translates across the globe. And in times like these, it's so very important that we are able to do that.

PRENTICE: Jennifer, I've been hearing about something called Sonic Boom. What? What is Sonic Boom?

DRAKE: Sonic Boom is the education program that we have. It's a series of videos, and sonic boom is a ten-week curriculum that students can go through where they learn how to listen and engage with music more deeply. And it starts off with a series of videos and curriculum where students interact with music. They get to see videos of our Philharmonic members in action, and it culminates with our school concert video.

PRENTICE: And I think I've been looking at the rundown for the concert. It includes some familiar melodies. I see Grieg and Mozart and a little E.T. from John Williams too, right?

DRAKE: Yes, absolutely. The storyline involves a space alien comes to Earth and is learning more about all of these different elements. And so his close personal friend E.T.is there to help end the program. But we go through a whole series of pieces and each piece is specially selected to break down a different musical element or concept in a short, user friendly way for students.

PRENTICE: Maestro, could you talk a little bit about the reward of trying to do the right thing for the last couple of years? And I'm guessing for you and your colleagues, that means us being in the presence of the Philharmonic and that experience, which we have missed so very much.

GARCIA: Oh, of course, be in front of live audiences again to have that interaction. As we know, every audience really dictates how our performance goes as much as we can do on stage. It's really the interaction with the audience that really makes the performance. So for us it's incredibly rewarding and it makes me very optimistic about the future. Everything that we've been able to continue to accomplish through our education programs over the course of the pandemic has been very uplifting. Nothing has faltered at all. We've been able to maintain our regular peace. Really having all of these resources online, I think has been very, very helpful for educators. We hope and for students. We hope that we've been able to maintain contact with them through these times where we've been apart from one another. And now that we are able to come back together, it really kind of ties everything all together. But I'm so proud of the fact that we have these resources available online and the concerts in person. It's something that I wish I had been able to see when I was young, because everything that Jen just spoke about, they really do touch on all of the very, very specific details of what it is to be a musician, to be an artist. All of these very, very seemingly intangible things that our musicians make very tangible in their presentations.

PRENTICE: Eric Garcia is Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic and Jennifer Drake is director of the Boise Phil Youth Orchestra. Have a wonderful time on Wednesday. Enjoy this taste of spring that has been gifted to us. And thank you so very much for giving us some time this morning.

GARCIA: Thank you, George.

DRAKE: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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