‘Rusty Musicians’ Rub Bows With the Pros

BY Molly Finnegan  October 29, 2010 at 11:09 AM EDT

In September hundreds of musicians, including myself, took part in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s “Rusty Musicians,” a concert in which amateurs had the opportunity to share stands with professionals to perform works by Brahms and Stravinsky under the direction of BSO Music Director Marin Alsop.

For a true definition of passion, look no further than the amateur musician.

Amateur musicians come from all walks of life. Some teach music in schools and seek opportunities to perform, while some are professionals in other fields who find an outlet and camaraderie in making music in their free time. Without passion for music and for an instrument, there’s not much reason to practice after a long day at work, no reason to drive an hour each way to a community orchestra rehearsal. Believe me; this is a voice of experience.

I studied violin intensively beginning at a young age, and then through college, and graduated with a double major in music and English. While I pursued a writing career, I took advantage of every chance to play in chamber groups, community orchestras and bluegrass bands.

It’s the same passion that inspired the nearly 600 amateur musicians in “Rusty Musicians.” Opening the stage to non-professionals, the BSO gave us a chance to sit next to the pros and to soak up the musical wisdom of an internationally renowned conductor.

The experience was exhilarating and exhausting. As I watched professional violinists make an extremely challenging passage look easy, I had newfound respect and understanding for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra musician who recently compared his job to being a professional athlete. It took all my concentration to watch the conductor, follow the music, keep up with the fast rehearsal tempo and enjoy the moment, all at the same time.

And just when I found my groove, the rehearsal was over, and we had to clear the stage for the next batch of musicians.

But as we exited, chatting with our stand partners, I realized that only the color of our name tags separated the professionals from the amateurs. We had become united through those 40 minutes onstage and by the one-of-a-kind performance we had produced.