Sunday, November 20, 2011

What We Can Learn From A Symphony Orchestra

What a treat! Last night, my youngest son, Grant, and I attended a Monterey Symphony concert. His History of Music class requires each student to attend a classical music concert of choice, and Grant selected this one. It was Grant's first classical music concert, and it was my first one in about 30 years. The orchestra played Who Cares?, a selection of Gershwin melodies with accompanying ballet dances, in the first half, and it played Tchaikovsky's Symphony #2 in the second half. The first half was delightful, while the second was thrilling. The ecstatic applause went on quite awhile during the standing ovation. A transporting evening was had by one and all.

While the main part of my brain was enjoying the music and dance, another part of my brain was thinking about the orchestra. I marveled at how the instruments complemented each other. The brass did not drown out the strings, nor did the woodwinds interrupt the percussion. Each section of the orchestra played its part, respectfully waiting its time to play and its time to be silent. The drums were of especial interest to me because the drummers would gently silence their drums' sounds by hand, stopping the reverberations that would have destroyed the symphony.

I marveled even more as I watched individual musicians play solos, starting right on cue and never insisting on more time. All the instruments in the orchestra working together to make ethereal music.  And I thought, "Why can't our government work like an orchestra?"

I almost laughed out loud at the mental image forming in my brain of our current members of congress playing instruments in a congressional orchestra and attempting to perform a symphony. What a cacophony that would be! The brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion all being played loudly, insisting on being heard over the other instruments, with no direction, no respect, no timely silences. The sound would be worse than a thousand fingernails scratching on chalkboards.

Why would the sound be so awful? Because it would not be music; it would just be noise. I may like the brass best (and I do), but I also enjoy the strings, woodwinds, and percussion. Brass by itself would get boring because it cannot make all the sounds necessary to produce a symphony. 

Our elected officials and we voters need to take our cues from orchestral musicians. We need to listen at the right times, respect the virtues of the different sounds, and work together to make the music of democracy play in our land again. This is what I learned at the symphony last night.

Take care,


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  1. Well said, we do need to respect the virtues of different sounds. Rick Perry will certainly lead the band with a different kind of sound if he is elected. I'm pretty sure we would be treated to an orchestra being led by a that would be music...

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