My son, Travis, plays tuba and trumpet in school. If it wasn't for the music lessons he started with in fifth grade, I don't know if he would have been interested in playing an instrument, especially since I don't play (although I've always wanted to play piano) Today, Travis is in high-school and is playing college level music. He's in wind ensemble, jazz band and marching band. This was all because of school music programs, but not all students have this same opportunity. Some parents can't afford private lessons. Others can't afford to rent or buy an instrument . Not every school district can afford a music program. When school budgets are cut, music programs are one of the first to go.
So I love it when I hear that someone is working hard to provide children with opportunities in music. I had a chance to talk to Carlo Ponti, who is the conductor of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra and son of movie legend Sophia Loren (can I say I could listen to him and that accent forever! :))
Carlo is instrumental in bringing classical music to young people -- he leads his symphony’s participation in the public outreach program called “Music in the Schools,” which takes classical music instruments and instruction into every third grade class in the San Bernardino Unified School District in California. He also just completed the annual “Children’s Corner” performance, where he selected an hour’s worth of material for the young audience and supplemented it with commentary to help explain the pieces and their significance.
Carlo Ponti began his musical studies in Paris as a pianist and subsequently attended the Conductor's Institute in Hartford, Connecticut. He holds a master's degree in conducting from the University of California, Los Angeles and has also studied with Maestros Zubin Mehta, Mehli Mehta, Andrey Boreyko and Harold Farberman, and under Leopold Hager and Erwin Accel at the Vienna Musikhochschule.
When were you introduced to music?
I started taking piano when I was about nine years old. Music was always a part of my life. My parents are big fans of classical music, so at a very young age I was trained to the sounds of classical music. My father always suggested that I should be a conductor, so I owed that to him.
What does music mean to you?
I really like that I can express myself through music and I don’t need words...also I’ve generally loved making music.
Committed to encouraging and educating young talent, Ponti holds regular master classes in orchestral conducting and has led the American Youth Symphony Orchestra. Why did you start working with the kids?
We have a musical outreach program which we go in the schools and work with instrumental groups and coach them. We are really fighting to keep the music programs going. Music is the first thing to go (when budgets are cut) and that’s part of the problem in this country. Support for orchestra music is difficult people aren’t as educated about it here. In Europe, music is always an intrinsic part of education.
Why do we not give it the same respect?
It's not the same focus here. There's no tradition of honoring music education in this country. You really need to petition schools, showing the will to make the music education a mandatory part of the program. It has to come from the parents. they need to show that music education is important.
How can we help keep the music alive?
Introduce your child to music -- it teaches them cooperation, diligence and focus. The earlier you teach it to them, the better it is for the child.
When I work with the kids in San Bernardino, we show them how their actions and dedication pay off and it trickles down to them. Maybe you will encounter some children who see you loving something and it will trickle down to them too.
What does working with the kids teach you?
It teaches me so much -- the community doesn’t have much money and the kids are underprivileged. There's gang violence right in their background, but if they see it coming from you, they build a love for something and many of them stick with their instrument, many of them actually flourish as students of music to playing music later.
Ponti's critically praised debut with the Russian National Orchestra in Moscow led to his appointment in 2000 as the Orchestra's Associate Conductor. In 2001, Ponti was named Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra in the United States, a position recently extended through the 2014/2015 season.
Ponti was awarded Italy's prestigious Premio Galileo Award in 2006 for exceptional musical achievement. In the United States, he was the recipient of the 2008 Artistic Achievement Award from the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition for his contributions to the development and advancement of young musical talent throughout the world.
Keep the music alive!!!!!