Young guest musicians bring 'toys' to WSO performance this weekend - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Young guest musicians bring ‘toys’ to WSO performance this weekend

Several students from the Vibes Fine & Performing Arts school perform with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christopher Dragon during rehearsal on Friday at Natrona County High School. The students will perform with the orchestra for Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony, which called for actual toy instruments in the score. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Children are usually encouraged to leave their toys at home if they attend a symphony performance.

On Saturday night, however, some children have not only been invited to bring toys, they’re expected to play with them during the performance.

Vibes Fine & Performing Arts students, ranging from pre-school to high school age, will be playing actual toys, such as bird and cuckoo whistles, ratchets and triangles, during a performance of Leopold Mozart’s “Toy Symphony.”

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The collaboration is all part of WSO’s new music director Christopher Dragon’s vision for expanding the orchestra’s reach within the community.

“When I was auditioning, one of the things I was trying to push as my kind of goal was to involve the orchestra in the community, so that it really becomes an essential part of not only Casper but the whole of Wyoming,” said Dragon.

“This collaboration was a way to do that.”

In addition to involving students in the concert, acclaimed concert pianist Steven Lin visited Vibes this week for a private performance and one-on-one interaction with Vibes keyboard students. Lin performed last year during Dragon’s audition performance with the orchestra that ultimately landed him the job.

Concert pianist Steven Lin rehearses the Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at NCHS in Casper. Taiwanese-American pianist has received accolades all over the world for his intense and technical abilities. He was the featured soloist for a performance conducted by guest conductor Christopher Dragon. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

“Our students have already learned so much and are so excited for this experience,” said Amy Munsell, owner and director of Vibes.

“These opportunities where our Casper youth and families get to hear, interact and even play alongside professional musicians creates these moments that last a lifetime,” she continued. “It can create future symphony-goers and future musicians.”

Munsell beleives a vibrant orchestra and music culture is essential for a community.

“Many new families looking to relocate are often looking for culture and the arts, for not only themselves but for their children,” she said. “It’s important for them and also our growing economy.”

Christopher Dragon leads the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and students from Vibes during rehearsal on Friday, Jan. 24. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

In addition to the “Toy Symphony,” Saturday’s concert includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with guest soloist Lin. Beethoven will be featured in the remaining concerts this season in honor of the world-wide celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday.

During his audition, Dragon emphasized his desire to make the concert hall a more welcoming, less intimidating experience. Performing a mix of accessible, light-hearted music along with more serious pieces is part of that philosophy.

“To me, exposing kids (to classical music) at a young age is how you build an audience,” said Dragon, “because it’s at that young age when they’re interested in everything.”

“For a regional orchestra to survive, apart from providing great music, we need to be a central part of the community,” said Dragon.

The Saturday, January 25 Wyoming Symphony Orchestra performance of Leopold Mozart’s “Toy Symphony,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto starts at 7:30 p.m. at the NCHS John F. Walsh Auditorium. A pre-show talk with Christopher Dragon at the Lyric starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are available here.