My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Virginia Tech's New River Valley Symphony - the cost of picking up instruments instead of footballs

Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia, is well known for its football team.  As with so many other college towns, football is the driving force behind much of what happens here.  I don't want to spend much time dwelling on my lack of excitement for something that the rest of the town seems to flock to, after all I do seem to be in the minority,  but I do want to make some observations with the hope that perhaps it will get some locals thinking about another great team on campus that rarely, if ever, gets any attention - the New River Valley Symphony.   

The New River Valley Symphony is an orchestra made up of Virginia Tech students and community members.  Their "coach," or conductor, is Professor James Glazebrook, a faculty member from the Department of Music.  Now one thing I want to highlight about this group is that although there is a music department here, many of the orchestra members are not actually music majors so many of the instrumentalists do not have to be a part of the orchestra - they choose to be, in spite of heavy course loads, demanding subjects, and busy social lives.  In my opinion, this is very impressive.  These are smart, smart kids who work very hard in their academics and choose to spend 5 hours a week working hard at yet another skill.  This is a dedicated bunch of young people.   

In the title of this post, I mention the cost of picking up instruments instead of footballs so perhaps I should address that now.  Living in a college football heavy town, I often mourn the lack of attention and funding that is given towards such a positive experience.  Virginia Tech has just finished building its prestigious football team a new locker-room facility that was predicted as costing the school between $13 and $15 million dollars...that's right, $13-$15 million dollars!  In an online publication, the Virginian Pilot, the associate athletic director of the school is quoted as saying that the old locker room is "a little aged, and it really needs to be spruced up," and that it is "woefully inferior to other football locker rooms within the conference."  And this project comes after spending around $20 million dollars on a new basketball practice facility.  I ask you, how much money does the New River Symphony Orchestra demand?  I think it's pretty safe to say, "not much!"  I don't really think it would even cross the players' minds.  They play because they want to play - no bells and whistles attached!   

So why my rant?  Because I want more people in the Blacksburg area to consider attending this Saturday's New River Valley Symphony concert.  These are incredible kids that work hard and deserve to have more of an audience in Burruss Auditorium come Saturday night.  Of course I am a little biased since I'm performing on the concert but I have to say that it goes beyond that.  I have decided to also perform in the cello section for the remainder of the performance because I am so impressed with these young musicians and I think others should take note as well.  No, it won't be like a Roanoke Symphony concert but I can promise you the musicians will be working just as hard, if not harder!  Need some more reasons to entice you to come?  Here are my top 10+ reasons why it should be on your calendar:
  • It only costs $8 or $5 for you attend.  That's quite a deal compared to Hokie football game tickets!
  • You don't have to buy tickets ahead of time or try to buy them off the street from a scalper.  Just buy them at the door - how convenient!
  • Parking is a piece of cake compared to football game days.  There's parking on the Drillfield and also in the large parking lot behind Burruss.  
  • You don't have to pay for parking!
  • You can go out to dinner at a fun restaurant beforehand instead of just eating ham biscuits and drinking beer in the parking lot, although I hear people really like tailgating.
  • There's a great little festival from noon until 6pm at the First and Main shopping center called Fork and Cork...the concert would be a great way to end the day!
  • You don't have to worry about the weather.  If it rains, who cares?
  • You can wear what you want to worrying about if it's "Orange" or "Marroon-Effect" day! (only Blacksburgians will understand this, sorry!)  And you don't have to get dressed up for this concert - come as you are or do get dressed-up if you want to make a night of the whole event.
  • These kids in the orchestra - they are amazing, smart, hard-working kids!
  • James Glazebrook is a fabulous conductor that really has a heart for these musicians.
  • The concert has a variety of music on it: one of Beethoven's greatest piano concertos, a work by Piston called "The Incredible Flutist" that has some very interesting sound effects in it (I'm not giving them away - you've got to come!" and then some dances by Ginastera that will get your blood pumping and will make you want to jump up and dance!
  • Nobody will get injured in the process of playing the concert, at least I hope not.
  • A great big concert-grand Steinway has been rented and is coming all the way from Richmond, VA for this performance. (Virginia Tech does not own a concert grand in good condition - anyone want to donate one?)
  • There's a pianist involved that has a passion for sharing great music with everyone ;-)
All right, I guess that's all I have to say except for one last thing...

I hope to see some of you there and if you do come, I hope you enjoy the show!  

When: Saturday, May 1st, at 8pm
Where: Burruss Auditorium on the Virginia Tech Campus
Who: The New River Valley Symphony with James Glazebrook conducting and Erica Sipes, piano


  1. Well played.

    Although a huge college football fan even I have to admit that the cost of college football has gone so far over the top as to be embarrassing/scary. Its laughable (or would be if not so sad) that many of these new state of the art lockrooms/weight rooms are built using donated money; if you're donating money to a university don't you have an obligation to funnel it to libraries, labs, classrooms and not athletic facilities that are not part of the institutions core mission? Does any one pay attention to the real mission of a college: learning and the creation of new knowledge? Why do universities let the tail wag the dog?

    It'd be a different and probably better world if as many musicians (or future scientists, educators, authors, etc.) were given the same types of scholarships as college athletes. Good for you for putting in a plug for keeping things in perspective.

  2. Erica, your header recognizes your work as a pianist and cellist but not as a writer. Your words move me to tears of joy. Day upon day you and the New River Valley Symphony and countless musicians around the world give of themselves through music. It's rare that they make a living at it, but common that they make the world come alive.

  3. Thank you so much for your comments, Dale and Bruce. Sports seem to be such a touchy issue, especially in a college town and I can't deny the power of sports. But when it comes to combining sports and academics, I really do have a hard time understanding the desire to give money to an athletics department - sigh. And Bruce, I am truly touched by your comments. I'm glad that the post moved you! Gives me the desire to keep on writing in addition to playing music ;-) Thanks.