Herbert Spencer, the English philosopher and sociologist, wrote, “Music must take rank as the highest of the fine arts — as one which, more than any other, ministers to human welfare.”
And when it is silenced, human welfare must suffer for the grievous loss. In Moore County, fear of the coronavirus has challenged — for the time being — the many marvelous activities of the Carolina Philharmonic.
These are perilous times for the fine arts in a state where for almost 100 years, beginning at the height of the Great Depression, symphonic music has been a vital component of cultural life. It was in 1932 that the North Carolina Symphony was created. By 1935 it was performing in more than 50 cities and towns, offering over 140 concerts.
Remarkably, the first artists were unpaid volunteers. Eight years later, during the Second World War, the legislature voted funding for the orchestra, which in 1942 began to focus on education, bringing young children and students to concerts. That laudable public attitude continues to this day.
For the past decade, those of us living in Moore County have been blessed by a plethora of musical gifts. They have been brilliantly highlighted by the remarkable offerings of local impresario David Michael Wolff, the founder and director of the Carolina Philharmonic.
Since the orchestra began serving our community, it has helped more than 20,000 children in public and private schools. For many of these children, it was their first introduction to classical music. Thousands of young children have also attended special music classes taught by caring music teachers from 20 local schools. Children in grades K to 2 have been introduced to the study of music through Encore Kids! a program designed by Maestro Wolff.
Before the threat of the coronavirus, all fourth-grade children were being taught to play special music recommended in Carnegie Hall’s Linkup Program, using Peripole recorders provided by the Carolina Philharmonic. At the end of each course, those students participated in a multimedia interpretive concert. Educators have praised the program as one of the highlights of the school year.
Over 100 gifted students participated in a Junior Orchestra Program in which musical instruments were loaned to the learners. These young musicians were then invited to come on stage and perform on their stringed instruments with the Carolina Philharmonic. Can you imagine the thrill for the youngsters to have received such a unique opportunity?
The orchestra had to shut down public performances on March 10, in the middle of orchestral rehearsals for a concert that had been planned for that weekend. Since then the orchestra, in partnership with Sandhills Community College, has launched a series of live-stream concerts.
Should you wish to experience three spring musical programs produced by Wolff and recorded at Owens Auditorium, you will find them on the orchestra’s home page, www.carolinaphil.org. They are: April 1: Musical Reflections on COVID-19, by David Wolff on piano; April 22: David Wolff (piano) with Natasha Korsakova and Manrico Padovani (violins); and May 13: Timeless Math of Music: From Pachelbel to the Piano Man, with David Michael Wolff.
Right now, the Carolina Philharmonic is regrouping as it considers how it will best serve amid challenging health concerns. The Philharmonic will continue to work with Moore County Schools starting in the fall, including again providing Peripole recorders to every fourth-grader. Its longtime educational partnership with the schools is central to its mission, and the need is far greater this year than ever before. A flexible approach will be required this school year as the health situation is closely monitored.
One may expect the Carolina Philharmonic to do its best under these trying circumstances to bring brilliant music to our community, and to find creative ways to keep alive the love of music within the hearts of our young musicians. Music education for the young will continue to be the focus.
Is music important in our lives? Consider these lines of poetry by Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy: “We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lonely sea breakers, And sitting by desolate streams: World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world forever, it seems.”
Contributions to the Carolina Philharmonic may be sent to Carolina Philharmonic, 5 Market Square, Pinehurst 28374.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at Paulandbj@nc.rr.com.