Albany Symphony Orchestra to present Vivaldi, Instrument Petting Zoo

Mar. 4—ALBANY — If anyone can understand the potentially life-changing significance of introducing children to orchestral music at a young age, it's Albany Symphony Orchestra Musical Director and Conductor Claire Fox Hillard.

As a fourth-grader in Grand Rapids, Mich., young Claire had an opportunity to watch his violin teacher perform live in a concert for elementary students.

"That was a spark for me; it changed my life," Hillard said as he and musicians with the Albany Symphony started preparations for its March 11 performances of "Vivaldi, Venice, and Violins" and a special March 10 production, with actors, of "Vivaldi's Magic Ring," which will be performed Friday for elementary students in the region.

"Students are more involved when they have an opportunity for a 'hands-on,' if you will, opportunity," Hillard said Friday after presenting an International Conductors Guild award to renowned composer/conductor Zubin Mehta, maestro of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. "This Classical Kids Live performance, with actors bringing the visual story of the music to life, is important in helping them to understand the story.

"We've seen that having actors perform the story associated with the music has much more of an impact than just having a narration of the story. Seeing my teacher perform live impacted me profoundly, helped me find my deep love for music. There could be that one student — or more — in these audiences who also could become inspired."

"Vivaldi's Magic Ring" follows the well-received "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" performance by ASO and Classical Kids Live from a year ago. It will be performed Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Albany Municipal Auditorium for 600 or more elementary-age students from Albany, Lee County, Americus and homeschooled students from throughout the region.

The Classical Kids Live production features actors Chris Pertschler as Vivaldi and Nicole Hren as Katarina, along with musicians of the Albany Symphony under the direction of Hillard.

That hourlong production will be followed Saturday morning, March 11, at the Albany Municipal Auditorium by a performance of "Vivaldi, Venice, and Violins," all three of which are celebrated in "Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery" as the story unfolds.

A gifted young orphan named Katarina is sent to study music at the great Pieta orphanage in seventeenth-century Venice. There, she comes under the tutelage of the famous music director and composer Antonio Vivaldi and searches through the thrilling but mysterious atmosphere of Carnival and the Island of the Dead for clues to her past and a vanishing Stradivarius violin. A touching final scene unites Katarina with her grandfather, and together they take Vivaldi's music, its spirit and soul, out into the world.

That performance, which is open to the public, is preceded at 10 a.m. by the community favorite Instrument Petting Zoo, during which kids will have an opportunity to see, touch and learn about the instruments of the orchestra from the musicians who play them.

"That's become such a favorite for the community, and it is another of those things that probably impacts students' interest in and love for music," Hillard said. "It's always great to see the reaction of the kids as they get to touch and actually play the instruments. It's definitely a community favorite."

Tickets for the concert are $25 for adults, $22 for senior (65-plus) and $15 for students/military. Season tickets and season packages also are available at a savings over single ticket prices. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Albany Symphony offices at (229) 430-8933 or visit