The musicians walked quickly to their seats, glancing to the far corners of the auditorium that seats nearly 800 people.
They glanced nervously at each other and whispered to themselves and those around them.
“I’ve never been backstage before.”
“What do we do with our music?”
“Am I in the right seat?”
Their experienced partners smiled and offered reassurances. Soon everyone placed their sheet music for Clog Dance by Elliot Del Borgo on their stand and adjusted the height to ensure they could see the conductor.
Some musicians made faces at each other from across the stage, sticking out tongues and making each other laugh.
“This is the stage,” said Victoria Lien, Liberty assistant orchestra director. “The good news is that it is dark enough that you can’t really see the audience.”
Nervous laughter trickled from the stage.
These musicians are not your average first-time musicians. They are the parents and teachers of students at Liberty High School.
The Parent+Teacher Orchestra at Liberty High School has been practicing under the direction of Lien since mid-September once a week in preparation for this performance.
At the beginning of the year, Lien suggested a far-fetched idea. She wanted to provide an opportunity for parents and teachers to have greater respect and understanding of what the students do on a day to day basis with music. She wanted parents and teachers to learn the instruments that their students have been playing for years.
While many were skeptical, it was not long until she was leading music lessons to a group of nervous parents and teachers.
Freshman Shreya Jagan immediately knew she wanted her parents to participate.
“I wanted another way to bond with my parents,” Shreya said. “My dad works a lot but he always finds time to practice. He actually practices more than me!”
Shreya’s dad Jagan Ramaswamy was skeptical at first because he had never played an instrument before.
“My wife and daughter encouraged me and I slowly became more relaxed. It has really helped that we are doing this together,” her father said. “My daughter is extremely busy doing dance and music. I used to appreciate her but now I truly understand all the things she has to do.”
The Parent+Teacher Orchestra has received positive reviews from everyone involved.
“The Parent+Teacher Orchestra has given a lot of us many things, including new friendships and bonds, continuous laughter while being vulnerable, and the chance to try something new, both for the parents/teachers and for myself,” Lien said.
When parents could not make a rehearsal, they watched instructional videos Lien had prepared for them. They also found time to practice at home by themselves or alongside their students.
Before the concert, Lien led the group through a series of warm-ups while providing compliments and last-second encouragement with reminders about tricky measures and how to play with confidence.
The performance of Clog Dance was superb on all counts and the musicians nervously beamed at the audience as the loud applause seemed never-ending.
The musicians were quickly swarmed by adoring fans and flowers from the audience, which was welcomed, to rush the stage and take memorable keepsake photos.
It was a memorable moment for all.
Freshman Keenan Serrao has enjoyed watching the progress of his father, Nolan, over the course of the school year.
“I’ve been hearing him play around the house and it’s been great to watch him learn,” Keenan said. “I was a little skeptical at first but when I saw him committing and practicing, it was really cool. I’m proud of him.”
“It’s been fantastic. I’ve learned a lot but I now realize just how much practice it takes to play even the simplest music,” his father said. “I have never had second thoughts. Keenan and I motivate each other and I would love to continue learning alongside him.”
Lien and the parents are interested in continuing their work into the new school year and welcoming a new batch of beginners.
“I hope other parents and teachers are encouraged to give this a try next year so that we can continue to build this community within the Liberty Orchestra program and continue to build bonds between family members and coworkers,” Lien said.
Congratulations to these parents for a superb performance culminating a year of dedicated hard work:
Chitra Rathina Kumar