NC Symphony lets children try instruments

dranii@newsobserver.comJanuary 4, 2014 

— When it comes to playing a violin or a French horn at the Instrument Zoo, producing a sound is what it’s all about.

Whether it’s joyful, mournful, forceful or just plain awful is beside the point.

The Instrument Zoo, a popular, longtime tradition of the N.C. Symphony, provides kids with the opportunity to get their hands – and their mouths – on a variety of orchestral instruments.

Parents needn’t worry. The mouthpieces are treated with germicide after every misuse.

The symphony trots out the Instrument Zoo before every Young People’s Concert as well as at other outreach events. So it was a featured attraction at Saturday’s concerts at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh that featured Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals” as well as “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and the shark theme from the movie “Jaws.”

Gabriella Scudieri, 9, of Raleigh, was jazzed about being there.

“I really do just love animals,” she said. “Animals and music are the things I love the most.”

Volunteers – no, they’re not called zookeepers – worked with the students to produce that all-important sound on a trumpet, French horn, a pair of clarinets and flutes, and three violins of varying sizes, including a very popular child-sized edition.

Volunteer Megan Clift, 27, of Raleigh, has been a symphony volunteer for two years.

“It’s really fun to see a child hold and play an instrument ... for the first time,” she said. “There’s just a glimmer in their eye.”

Carolyn Conarroe, a retired Apex schoolteacher, talked 4-year-old Thomas Smith of Raleigh through the basics of playing a trumpet while his mother, Beth Smith, and grandfather, Scott Chatham, watched in anticipation.

“Let me show you how to hold it,” Conarroe said. “Put your thumb right here and your hand around there. Put your little pinky finger right here, and then you can mash all those little buttons.”

But that only covered the fingering.

“This is the way you can blow,” she said. “Watch me.” She proceeded to spit out a “Ppppppprrrrrrrrr.” “Can you do it?”

Thomas was game. He initially employed too much tongue action – “Don’t put your tongue out. Put your lips together,” Conarroe instructed – but his success ultimately was loud and clear.

Thomas celebrated with an orchestra-sized grin.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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