Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Few Days

For several weeks in May, Rivers seniors embark on self-directed independent study projects that can involve anything from volunteering at a soup kitchen to, in one case, earning a rocketry certification. Over the next few weeks, we will be periodically checking in with a handful of students to learn more about their experiences. Today, we hear from Kate Voorhes, who is interning at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Yesterday, walking toward the stage door of the Symphony from the Green Line, Starbucks iced coffee in hand, feeling independent and like I had finally had a glimpse of the so-called "real world," I started my senior project as an intern at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Music has been a crucial part of my life since I began playing the piano at five years old. Now, I play flute in the Rivers school orchestra among other groups. I actually just got home from giving a concert (Mozart Concerto in G for Flute). When the seniors first heard about the senior project requirement a few months ago, I thought about how I could spend the three weeks I was given to do something that truly interested me, instead of wasting the month away doing something insignificant simply trying to fulfill the graduation requirement. Over the winter, I had attended the Boston Pops Christmas Concert, which was upbeat and beautiful. Having performed in Jordan Hall several times, seeing Symphony Hall was simply breathtaking, and I knew that spending my time working at the Symphony would definitely be worth it.

Ms. Sabine Chouljian, the manager of volunteers at the BSAV (Boston Symphony Association of Volunteers), is basically my boss, and assigns me projects and jobs to do. There is one other intern (older than me) working with me, and we do similar tasks, but usually at alternate times. This month is not only the "Pops Season," which as you know is extremely busy, but also the transition time for Tanglewood (in the summer). I never really thought about how much goes on behind the scenes in order for the BSO to thrive like it does today.
The Symphony is hosting tons of events this month and one of my jobs is to help keep all of these functions running smoothly and efficiently. Sabine started me yesterday making hundreds of binders full of BSAV directories for an upcoming event. Today, I made phone calls to confirm patrons' attendance at the Audience Celebration Event this Saturday, which is a concert to honor the 50 year-plus members of the BSO. I think I called about five hundred elders, and only two declined. I found myself grinning when an elderly lady thanked me so much for reminding her because she had totally forgotten. She was so adorable. Reaching out to these grateful people was tedious but put a permanent smile on my face for the remainder of the day.

After dialing countless numbers, an older volunteer gave me and a few visitors a tour of the Symphony. I learned about the entire history of the BSO, went backstage, down to the basement, into the practicing rooms, and even stood on the stage briefly (you actually aren't supposed to..). I learned about all the different way in which Symphony Hall was designed to make it one of the most acoustically distinguished buildings in the world. There is a layer of thick felt under the first layer of wood on the stage to prevent creaking; the side balconies are as narrow as possible to prevent interfering with the sound; the ceiling slopes upward and the floor slopes down to make the hall shaped like a horn; the hall was the first to be designed with a specific formula in mind so that the reverberation time is exactly 1.9 seconds (one of the best in the world!); and even the greek statues embedded high up in the walls serve a purpose in making the hall's acoustics better. I learned about every conductor, heard stories about a short harpist getting locked into her harp's case (it was so spacious that she used it as her changing room), and even saw where they store all the chairs/pews after they remove them as they transition from BSO season to Pops season. I still can't believe that it only takes one day to take out all the pews (which are over 100 years old) and replace them with the round tables and chairs for the Pops. The principal violinist was hanging out down at one of the lounges...and that's when I realized that I was interning at a place where I would be surrounded by famous people all day long.
The security guard whom I pass every day on my way into the Symphony is even "tight" with Keith Lockhart. The countless number of limos pulling up to the side door when I first arrived wasn't my wakeup call, but rather seeing musicians lounging around their workplace like normal people when their photos and plaques are hanging along the famous hallways of the Symphony was the shocker. These famous musicians are just people like me that happen to be really good at playing instruments. All I can say is that I feel so lucky to be working in this beautiful and world-renownded building, and I can't wait for what's next!

-Kate Voorhes

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