Over the years, Catherine Pederson has watched the number of island kids carrying violin or clarinet cases down the streets of Eastsound increase. For her, these young musicians are evidence of a thriving music program. This was not always true on Orcas. Just 16 years ago, when the Music Advocacy Group was formed, Pederson said they were basically starting from scratch.
“Watching children enjoy music and flourish with their study of music and watching the program grow has been incredible,” said Pederson, president of MAG.
Every year more than 100 musicians gather to volunteer their talents to support music education at MAG’s annual benefit concert, Sunday, March 3 at 3 p.m. in the Old Gym at the Orcas School. MAG is an organization whose sole purpose is to support and augment the music program of the Orcas Island School.
“Thanks to the community’s support, the MAG concert has become an island tradition,” Pederson said.
The concert will feature performances by Orcas Choral Society, Island Sinfonia, Orcas Island Community Band, Orcas Youth Orchestra and Orcas A Capellagos, a new youth choir. Orcas Choral Society, under the baton of Roger Sherman, will sing selections from Mozart’s “Requiem.” Island Sinfonia, conducted by Ned Griffin, will play a habanera by Chabrier and works by Aaron Copland and Lerner and Loewe.
The Orcas Island Community Band, with co-conductors Karen Key Speck and Jim Shaffer-Bauck, is considering several pieces, including “Hogan’s Heroes March” and the Chaconne from “First Suite in E-flat” by Gustav Holst. The Orcas Youth Orchestra, comprised of Orcas High School strings and band members will play Martin Lund’s arrangement of “Loch Lomond.” The Orcas A Capellagos will sing “Rivers and Roads” by the Seattle group The Head and the Heart. Together, the Orcas A Capellagos and the Orcas Youth Orchestra will perform Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.”
For Pederson, a pianist, organist and teacher, she can’t imagine life without music. Even as she speaks about the perks of playing an instrument classical tunes echo in the background of her home.
“When I am not playing, the radio is,” said Pederson.
Music has given Pederson not just a hobby and profession, but has opened doors to friendship and travel throughout her childhood and adult life. Music, according to Pederson, fosters group dynamics and socializing and provides enjoyment. And students who recently participated and received high scores in the San Juan Music Educators Association contest and Washington Music Educators Association regional contest learned how to expose their souls and acquired self-worth and confidence whether they come in first place or not.
“It’s about giving and taking – giving a part of yourself and becoming part of a whole,” she said.
According to Jackie Silberg, author and early childhood specialist, music helps develop children’s language skills, self-esteem, listening and math skills, stimulates children’s brain connections, relieves stress and increases creativity.
Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner wrote that music intelligence is equal in importance to mathematical, linguistic, and interpersonal intelligence.
Steve Alboucq, who is organizing this year’s concert and is a new member of MAG, said music education is a profound experience for many young people that changes their lives for the better.
Alboucq, who plays the trumpet in the Orcas Horns, the Steve Alboucq Jazz Quartet and the Turtleback Brass, said the lessons he learned through his own musical education have followed him throughout the years.
“Music taught me the important life skills that have shaped me as adult,” he said. “I have more confidence in myself as a leader and a team member, more awareness of different perspectives, better appreciation of diverse cultures, a better sense of history, a better ability improve my skills and knowledge.”
Now, Alboucq feels that all those classes have enabled him to pass knowledge along to the next generation of musicians.
“We refer to music as being a life-time sport,” said Pederson. “Everyone can’t play football or basketball when they are in their 80s, but they can still play in band and orchestra. Music in schools prepares children for their whole lifetime.”
Admission to the concert is by donation, and all proceeds go to MAG.
Those who cannot attend but wish to donate can make checks payable to “MAG” and mail them to MAG, P.O. Box 1171, Eastsound, WA 98245.