Learning side-by-side, note-by-note
GV orchestra mentors high school musicians
The Grand Valley State University symphony orchestra traveled to Forest Hills Eastern High School on Oct. 14 to perform in a “Side-by-Side” concert featuring the Forest Hills Eastern High School Orchestra.
For the last five years, GVSU has done concerts with different West Michigan high school orchestras.
Henry Duitman, director and conductor of the GVSU orchestra, has exposed the program to the wider West Michigan community and has instituted the yearly Side-by-Side concerts with top high school orchestras.
Working with Forest Hills Eastern High School has been very easy, Duitman said. Its orchestra director is also an adjunct faculty member at GVSU and teaches a string instrument class.
“We talked about this last year, got it on the calendars of both the schools in the summer, and have been working together since,” Duitman said.
The students sat next to each other, one GVSU student and one Forest Hills Eastern student, for the piece “Egmont Overture” by Beethoven.
“This makes both students sit up straight and play their absolute best, and the high school students always learn from the more experienced students sitting next to them,” Duitman said.
The concerts also give GVSU students a chance to perform for audiences who might not otherwise hear them.
“Each year we also have a few students from these high schools who decide to play in the GVSU orchestra when they come to GVSU,” Duitman said.
Kevin Flynn, a GVSU senior who plays the cello in the orchestra, said he enjoys the experience of playing under a new conductor and with new musicians.
“In high school, I played with a local college and it was eye-opening,” Flynn said.
The Forest Hills Eastern students get the chance to play with people around their age who are seriously pursuing music, he said.
“Our faculty string trio went out to the high school to work with their students on the number we (performed) together, and I also went out and worked with the high school students,” Duitman said.
There could be top high school students who are inspired by such a side-by-side performance and decide to major in music, he said. However, the primary goal is to give every high school student a great musical and educational experience.
“Many people stop playing their instrument after high school, and this sort of experience can be a motivator to continue,” Flynn said.