On Friday night we witnessed a man reach an important milestone in his life and career. While validation comes in many forms there are only a few moments in a person’s life that pay dividends quite the way this one did for Shodekeh. Once an usher at The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, he returned to astound those in the audience who had yet to experience his talent. For those of us who have watched him progress over the years, the moment conjured a sense of pride and inspiration. Shodekeh stood on that stage with many of the most respected musicians in the city because he made the necessary sacrifices to do so. The fact that he did it on his own terms was as impressive as the performance.
Orchestras flourished at a time when people had fewer choices of how to entertain themselves. If an established institution such as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra refused to adapt to the times they would fail and cease to exist. With our attention spans growing shorter and our expectations getting higher, it takes an extraordinarily insightful individual to walk the line between what is expected of a music director and what will keep old asses in the seats and new ones coming through the door. Enter Marin Alsop.
To my knowledge there isn’t a conductor better suited for the city of Baltimore than Marin Alsop. When Juilliard rejected her from their conductor program, she studied privately and formed her own orchestra. As you probably know, she eventually became the first woman to conduct a major American orchestra. It’s the unlikeliness of her even being here that makes her the perfect fit. The way I see it, It’s a bit of magical time in the city and she’s somewhat of an unconventional Cinderella of sorts.
I’m inclined to appreciate her conducting because, for one, she turns around and addresses the audience enough to make a connection. At times she’s even been known to run through bits of music to explain the story before running through an entire piece. She also seems to be making a conscious effort to connect with the community through the productions she’s staging at The Meyerhoff and the initiatives she’s enacting through the symphony like OrchKids, a program that teaches music and provides mentorship to Baltimore City children.
If I had to guess, and I do have to guess because I haven’t actually spoken with her, I would say that she’s aware of the overall shift in consciousness that’s occurring. More and more, we’re finding that people are longing for connection. As a conductor, she’s tapping into that. This is just one example of forward thinking on her part. I believe the fact that she’s willing to make such an effort is reason enough to consider returning the sentiment. If you haven’t been to the symphony find a concert that suits your tastes and go. You might be surprised at what you’ll find on their schedule these days.
(Photo also featured in New York Times.)
Jan Mikael Vainio is a Finnish composer, metal aficionado and the man who helped set the stage for Shodekeh’s performance with the B.S.O. His composition Fujiko’s Fairy Tale requires a beatboxer and the rest is history.
All the photos in this story are of the rehearsal the day before the concert though after Shodekeh’s initial performance with the orchestra these seats were as empty as they are in this picture. Everyone in the audience was on their feet giving a standing ovation that none in attendance will soon forget.