By Samuel Moore-Sobel
Such joy can be reaped from watching someone do what they were made to do.
Anthony J. Maiello, Conductor and Artistic Director of the American Festival Pops Orchestra, is doing just that. An internationally renowned conductor and a Professor of Music with George Mason University’s School of Music, he appeared at a recent concert at the Hylton Performing Arts Center located within George Mason University’s Prince William campus. He began this performance, as he nearly always does, by conducting his orchestra in a moving rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. “I always start with the national anthem, and it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time,” he told the audience.
The concert was intended to be a celebration of movie music. Maiello led the audience in a game of “name that movie,” offering concert-goers the chance to yell out movie titles associated with just a few lines of music. “E.T.,” “Psycho” and “Star Wars,” among many others, made the cut. “You’re such a wonderful audience,” Maiello kept saying, expressing surprise at the group’s movie recall.
As the program progressed, one could not help but be overcome with a sense of pure, unadulterated joy. Maiello was gregarious, engaging and charming throughout the night, leading the audience through a maze of poignant music and moving lyrics. Yet the power behind this journey could be found in something much larger. Music can oftentimes express what words are unable to adequately convey. Such revelations can give birth to a sense of community, along with a connection to something much larger than oneself. The concert itself felt like not only a celebration of cinematic music; but, even more importantly, a celebration of America.
Many of the featured songs were “made in America,” as it were. With a nod to the classics, the orchestra played “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Over the Rainbow.” Some of the music featured even served as the lyrics seemingly encapsulating certain decades of our shared, collective history.
“It wouldn’t be a movie music concert without Henry Mancini,” Maiello said near the end of the concert. As the orchestra played “Moon River,” a song written by Mancini and featured in the classic movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Maiello exited the stage to find his wife. Wading through the audience, he grabbed her arm upon reaching her, dancing in the aisle as the orchestra played on. Exemplifying another wonderful truth as it pertains to beautiful music – the ability to bring people together. For, all can bask in its artful glow.
Which brings me to another important note. Sitting in the middle of a college campus provided the perfect setting to analyze the messages we as a society impart to students all across the country. Parents urging their children to shy away from the humanities and the arts, in favor of more profitable career paths such as information technology, science and mathematics. Dollar signs and prestige often motivating such words of wisdom, while completing ignoring the desires of the heart.
While violinists, singers, pianists and conductors may not have the same earning potential as an IT executive, does that make the work they do any less impactful? Watching as these talented musicians used wooden instruments to produce beautiful sounds, it was hard not to see the look of joy emanating from so many faces across the stage. The joy they exhibited was infectious, the dedication and skill exemplified by their performances rather inspiring. Perhaps providing a cautionary tale to those audience members who happened to be students. Don’t just follow the money; after all, passion matters, too.
Maiello ended with a nod to the service men and women in the audience, directing his orchestra to play the “Armed Forces Salute.” “…Without them, we would not be able to live the wonderful life we have…” he said. With each military theme, people stood in recognition of the branch of the military in which they serve (or served), as their fellow Americans greeted them with applause. Watching the faces of those who sprung out of their seats, one could not help but be overwhelmed with a sense of gratefulness. For a country filled with people willing to sacrifice for the greater good. For a room comprised of people willing to support education and the arts, listening to songs created by talented men and women that have been heard the world over. Looking towards the future, the potential for further composition and musical creation seems endless. What songs will we be singing in the next 30 years, as we look back on the previous decades?
“What a beautiful country we have,” I told my brother as we exited our seats after the conclusion of the program. “I hope we never lose it.”
Samuel Moore-Sobel is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit www.holdingontohopetoday.com