Who was the famous classical composer who gave us the tune for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?”
If you’re stumped for the answer, you might ask the fourth-grader in your home.
The melody for this endearing lullaby is attributed to the Austrian child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), but he apparently adapted the simple sequence of notes from an old French folk song.
Mozart and his near-contemporary Franz Josef Haydn, along with Bohemian composer Smetana, were on the playbill Nov. 14 when the Bryan Symphony Orchestra performed at Tennessee Tech University for some 500 Warren County fourth-grade students in an impressive building named for McMinnville native Charles Faulkner Bryan, a composer headed for international fame when died unexpectedly in 1955.
The Bryan Symphony—the only professional symphony orchestra based in a rural area of Tennessee—celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago, shortly after it accepted Warren County for its acclaimed annual education concerts. For several years prior to that milestone event, the orchestra welcomed only Putnam County students for abbreviated versions of the formal subscription concerts.
“For the overwhelming majority of our students,” Warren County director of schools Bobby Cox said, “this is the first time they have been in a concert hall of a major symphony orchestra and the first time they’ve heard the majestic, powerful sound of 70 or 80 instruments played by first-class professional musicians.”
“We hope it won’t be the last time,” Cox continued. “This introduction to the music of the great composers could spark an interest in the arts and personal creative expression among our students. And bringing them onto the campus of a large university might be the stimulus that encourages them toward academic success now and into their futures.”
The annual BSO education concert trips are a youth-service project of The Rotary Club of McMinnville, with financial assistance from Rotary members and leading businesses and financial institutions in the community, Cox noted. The Warren County schools student nutrition program provides sack lunches for the students, and Durham School Services, the county system’s transportation contractor, covers the cost for the drivers, he added.
A key to the popularity and success of the education concerts is the lively, engaging conductor and music director of the BSO, Dan Allcott. Departing from the white-tie-and-long-coattails formality of the subscription concerts, he creates fun with classical music, evoking laughter and giggles from fourth-graders, and often invites them to the podium to help conduct the orchestra. Tulissa Gulley, from West Elementary, was one of Allcott’s conducting novices last Tuesday.
“Our continued relationship with the Warren County schools is incredibly important to the Bryan Symphony Orchestra,” Allcott observed. “Access to unique educational events like the Bryan Symphony education concerts is what spurs the imagination of young people.
“Whether it be the thrill of hearing a live orchestra perform music of the world’s greatest composers, or just visiting the Tennessee Tech University campus and envisioning themselves as a college-bound students, these events instill hope for young people in what they can become,” he continued.
Students gave high marks to the symphony and the concert hall experience. Eli Castorena offered, “I liked the way [the music] was soothing and gentle. I also liked the way they played ‘Twinkle, Twinkle.’ Also, I loved the way it was slow and then really fast and rapid. I hope to see it again.”
Payton Muncey had this appreciation: “I liked the music because it had good rhythm and awesome instruments. The music was also good because the people were good at playing the instruments.” The brass section was a big hit with Abigail Fann, who found the whole event “very delightful.” Nicky Lambidonis “thought it was cool because the orchestra could keep up with all [the conductor’s] hand signals.” Brooklyn Mason especially welcomed the educational content, noting, “I actually learned a couple of things like what all the instruments’ names are what sounds they make.” And Moore Young heaped praise on Allcott, who “did a great job leading the band” and singled out the trumpets as his favorite instruments. “It was a great show,” the student concluded.
A survey organized by school system central office personnel Autumn Turner and Debbie Haley asked 479 students if they had ever experienced a symphony orchestra concert before last Tuesday at Tennessee Tech. The poll revealed that of the total, only 53 (11 percent) had previously heard a live orchestral performance.
“Although the students for the most part really enjoy the BSO concerts, we don’t regard this as field trip for fun, a few hours out of the classroom,” schools director Cox remarked. “This is a serious part of the children’s total educational experience. When you consider that almost 90 percent of our students have never before had this stimulating, horizon-expanding experience, you begin to appreciate the value of the relationship between the Bryan Symphony and our school system and community.
“Reading proficiency will always be ‘job one’ for us, but cultural literacy and enrichment are also extremely important in the total educational program,” he stated.