Alive and spicy: A night with the NJSO

On Friday, a group of roughly 25 Stevens students attended the annual College Night with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO). The date coincided with the NJSO’s opening weekend at the State Theater of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. On this particular night, American classical violinist, Sarah Chang, was a featured soloist in both Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” as well as Ravel’s “Tzigane.” Other works that played that night were Bernstein’s “On the Town: Three Dance Episodes” and Copland’s “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.” From the set list alone, it is evident that the concert was a unique experience for both new and returning concertgoers.

The conductor that night, Teddy Abrams, emphasized the importance of one’s ethnic background in creating art. The composer’s motherland, Argentina, inspired Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.” The piece is able to transport audiences to Buenos Aires, where the characteristic Argentinian tango influences can be heard. Likewise in “Rodeo,” composer Aaron Copland incorporates old American tunes and syncopations into the piece, which pays homage to the square dancing and cowboy songs of the American West.

Although she does not have a musical background, Lauren McTigue, a junior chemical engineering student at Stevens, enjoyed attending the NJSO College Night. She recounts “that [the NJSO concert] was really cool to see live” and she enjoyed “how much [the musicians] care [about music] makes you care more.” Lauren adds that she “liked that [the music] explored different [geographical] areas” and that the Argentinian influences in Piazzolla’s work reminded her of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. In addition, Lauren states that the wide range of music selections made the concert experience “alive and spicy.”

Kelly Munyan, a junior mechanical engineering student, is not new to the music scene. Although it was her first time attending an NJSO concert, she has seen both the Philly Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic play live. She says that her favorite piece of the night was “Buckaroo Holiday,” a syncopated and rag-time-y piece, because she had played the piece before and it brought back memories of bands that she had played with in the past.

Regardless of one’s career aspirations, musical or otherwise, there is some sort of magic that occurs in a concert hall. Attending a live concert, of any kind, is a full-body experience. The waving of the conductor’s baton and the synchronicity of all the bows to the thunder of applause at the end of a piece, are all so … real.

As a musician sitting in the audience, I felt the sudden urge to play my violin. One of my idols, violin soloist of the night, Sarah Chang, not only played beautifully, but she also reminded me why I love music. Music has the power to transport you to different times and places. Music is also exciting – it can surprise and excite you. The crescendos and glimmering vibratos kept me on the edge of my seat that night. Surrendering my senses and just taking in the raw and beautiful music by musicians who genuinely care about their craft, made me feel so lucky to have the opportunity to attend College Night with the NJSO. Music has the power to bring people together, and it is amazing.