It’s at this time of year every year that I look at my August calendar and say, Why, oh why am I so busy? I should just set aside the first couple of weeks of August for my personal passions, but every year I am so busy. Last year I had big family events. This year I have family visiting and I just had to go to the Homeschool Conference in Sacramento, which a friend encouraged me to go to and also to apply to be a contributor to. (I get to lead a workshop on writing fiction, returning to my past as a teacher of fiction writing, which seems so distant now…)
But why is it that I want to keep the beginning of August free? Quite simply, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year to be a classical music audience member, when scores of world-class classical musicians descend upon Santa Cruz to be led on a musical journey by the amazing Marin Alsop — in other words, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
I don’t expect many readers to be wowed by this. I realize that my taste in music is a bit esoteric, though the CFM usually does include a nod toward more popular tastes, like this year’s concert of Grateful Dead music.
But all of you who care about your children’s education should know about an adjunct part of the CFM that is not only fabulous, and not only not about esoteric music, but is also FREE! The Free Family Concert attached to the CFM is just fabulous. First of all, you get the instrument “petting zoo.” The crowd (and it is a crowd) is broken into groups, each with a charming musical name, and led around the Civic and the City Hall to meet with musicians from the orchestra. The musicians talk about their instruments, and then play a demonstration. They answer questions. They show your children how they enjoy what they’re doing. They open up a new world of ideas and possibilities.
Then the orchestra comes back together to perform some music. Usually they have a contemporary composer compose something for this performance, or they perform something recently composed for children. That’s pretty cool. They also usually choose a piece that’s in the repertoire for the adult concerts that will appeal to children. Short, often containing funny sounds, lively and interesting.
Our kids are growing up in a world where the people who get the most fame and the most money seem to be people who have done little to deserve it or who got it through being blessed with something (physical abilities, family money) that the rest of us can’t have. Our kids so seldom get to see and interact with people who are doing something really cool and rather different purely for the love of it. The musicians they will meet are not highly paid. They don’t get much glory. They play music that most people don’t know even exists. But they love what they do, and their enthusiasm is something you can actually feel.
It’s so heartening in this world where there’s a line around the block for the latest blockbuster movie that the Free Family Concert still even exists, and that so many families in Santa Cruz love it and wouldn’t miss it for anything. Starting today, you can walk up to the Civic Box Office and get tickets… for free. Just ask, really! But not for long. The Free Family Concert always “sells out.”
I just ordered our tickets. As usual, my August is way too busy, with the Homeschool Conference added on top of the visit from family members and all the other “oh no summer’s ending and we still haven’t done that” stuff that’s going to come up. So unfortunately, I won’t be attending the Family Concert this year; it’s my first year of not attending since my son was small. But my family will be going. In the face of everything they’ll face as they go out into the world, I want my kids to remember what really matters: passion, love, intensity, community, achievement.
Our popular culture is hell-bent on teaching them that the most important thing they could do would be to win on a reality TV show. My kids don’t even know what reality TV is yet, but they do know what a viola is, and why a certain viola player loves playing the viola, and why it’s worth working on something — whatever it is — that they love. Whether or not anyone else thinks it’s cool or important or worth giving government funding for. It’s worth doing something you love simply because you love it — that’s the message I hope they get.
Oh, and I guess they’ll have fun as well.