by Christie Connolley
The theater fell silent as the house lights dimmed. The spotlight illuminated a path to the podium as the conductor proudly sauntered into place and gestured to the orchestra below the stage of the concert hall. When prompted by the audience’s thunderous applause, I clapped too. He acknowledged the audience and turned toward the orchestra, raised his arms and held them stiffly above his head as we waited for the music to begin. After the brief moment of anticipation, the faint sound of the violins delicate bowing permeated the air. It streamed out into the audience like the lingering smoke of a cigarette that sweetly caressed my ears. I closed my eyes as the evocative melody resounded all around me. The gentle lulling of the strings was interrupted by the onslaught of the horns powerful entrance. The dialogue between the instruments endured throughout the prelude, sometimes tender, sometimes forceful.
Suddenly, the serenade of a solitary voice resonated above the sound of the orchestra. The stage was bare, yet the faceless voice endured. The ascension of the interweaving harmonies of the lyrical voice and the complementary instruments reached its climax when the singer emerged on the stage. I couldn’t look away for a moment, or even blink, fearing I would miss something. The singer moved to the center of the stage and gazed out into the audience. It felt as if she were peering right into my eyes, as if we were the only two people in the theater and her song was intended only for me. That night she surrendered herself entirely, through her voice, through her movement, through every thought, through the very blood that coursed through her veins. She gave all that she had. She was music.
I was moved. When the house lights returned, I realized my hands were clenching the armrests with rapt attention. That was my first opera. I was ten years old. My elementary school class was invited to attend an arts outreach program offered by Opera Colorado. Some of my classmates were entertained; others seemed unaffected, and some even slept during the production. For me, something fundamentally changed in my soul that day. Something was awakened. I have spent my entire life chasing that feeling.
Today, it occurs to me, that fewer and fewer American children have the opportunity to find their life’s calling in music, as arts funding in public schools has been cut to the point of near decimation. As a child, when I discovered my passion, my community rose to meet me with school choirs, plays, and orchestra. Today’s children have fewer options available through public schools. I realize that here I raise a problem for which I have no solution. But I feel a conversation about the importance of arts in education and public life is a vital one that should be brought to the forefront.
As a community of artists what responsibility do we share to ensure the arts are alive and thriving for this and the next generation? What new beginnings in music can we help create for them?
Christie Connolley is one of the founders and directors of Operagasm.com. You can learn more about Christie under the ‘About Us’ tab on the top of the page. Christie welcomes you to comment on her article or email her privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.