Letter from Noah A. VanValkenburg
Dear SOS and the Management of the DSO:
My name is Noah VanValkenburg, and I have grown up with the Detroit Symphony.
My father, Jim VanValkenburg, is a violist for the DSO. Ever since I was born, I’ve grown up with the sights and sounds of one of the world’s finest orchestras playing in a stunning concert hall. For me, the Detroit Symphony is an integral part of my life; I can neither imagine Detroit without it nor can I imagine my childhood without the opportunities it has provided.
In preschool, three musicians came to my preschool and put on a wonderful show perfect for the three- and four-year-old audience. I will never forget the shock – and wonder! – I felt when Randall Hawes took the slide of his trombone out of his trombone.
I will never forget taking my seat in the balcony and listening to Stravinsky, Handel and – my favorite – Bach.
I will never forget how special and how privileged I felt when I was ten years old and sat front row center at the Halloween concert and got covered in dry ice.
I will never forget singing with my high school choir at the Symphony’s Christmas concerts under the directions of Thomas Wilkins, who took a personal interest in every single one of the students and made an effort to talk to them. This was a world-famous maestro hanging out with kids who never in their wildest dreams imagined that they would be singing with Detroit’s most talented musicians.
I feel lucky, even now, in the middle of a strike. I feel lucky to have these memories and experiences and knowledge that cannot possibly be replicated in a classroom.
Yet a large part of me feels great sadness. I do not feel sad because my father does not have a job – after all, he IS a musician – nor do I feel sad because I have not seen the DSO in quite some time.
I feel sadness because there are other preschoolers and ten-year-olds and members of high school choirs who are not able to feel what I felt. My feelings were created by the musicians. Musicians who are simply the best of the best, irreplaceable men and women of talent and hard work, who feel terrible if they miss even a single note in concert. A second-class symphony has no chance at creating those feelings.
Now, as a student at Colby College in Maine, the feeling I miss most is indescribable. The last time I experienced the feeling was sitting right behind the french horn section on stage during the Christmas concerts. The choir had a tacet, or a number where we didn’t sing, so we listened to Leroy Anderson’s wonderful piece “Sleigh Ride.” There are no words to describe the feeling of hearing the peerless sound of what I believe is the best horn section in the country – it is an emotional reaction that can only exist in Orchestra Hall. It is why music exists, so we can express what we cannot say in words.
Other kids need to have my experiences. I would not be the person I am today – more educated, more cultured, and with my eyes much wider open – without the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. To the management, the time has come to let other children of Detroit listen to, marvel at, and perform with the DSO.
It is irreplaceable.
Noah A. VanValkenburg
Colby College Class of 2013