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Music For Families Is A Hit

Credit Meg Burke Photography

  "Music for Families" started on Saturday at about 9:30, with virtually the entire second floor of the Saenger Theatre filled with activity stations. There were science displays from the Pensacola MESS Hall and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), an arts and crafts table for kids to make masquerade masks out of paper plates, and a concert from the orchestra to cap it all off.  

One of the more popular attractions of the event was the instrument “petting zoo”, which was arranged into different villages, highlighting the different sections of the orchestra. 

First stop, String City.   

Here’s where we find six-year-old David Knoblock, who got to play the harp for the first time. He saidwhile he had seen people playing harp in a video before, this was the first he’d ever actually seen and been able to touch one in real life.  

After trying it out, he said it was a little bit different than how he imagined it would be. When asked how difficult it was to play, he replied, “It was medium.”  

Other instruments available in String City included the cello, bass, violin, and viola.  

Next door to String City were Brassburg and Woodwindville.  

In this village, seven-year-old Greta Tillery was among the children choosing from a variety of brass and woodwind instruments. She explained that so far she had tried out the tuba, oboe, and trombone, boasting that she could even wave at her friends while playing the trombone.  

“They were good,” said Tillery. “I think I like the tuba the most. I was very good at the [blowing noise] part.”  

One of the musicians in Woodwindville was Stephanie Riegle, principal flutist for the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. She said the kids weren’t the only ones able to get something out of this experience, adding that attendance has been pretty consistent from year to year. 

“The kids are always really engaged and enthused to try it out,” saidRiegle. “It’s just so gratifying to teach them about music in every way. I love this. This is one of my favorite things to do, that we do with the symphony.” 

The last stop of the instrument petting zoo was just down the hall in Drum Land.  

Set up like a drum circle, kids were able to take their pick of percussion instruments including congas, bongos, djembes, and a handful of others. Given the nature of these instruments, it was a bit more free flow, giving the kids virtual free rein to just let loose and have fun beating on all the different drums. 

Eric Carter, 15, felt pretty at home in Drum Land, noting that drums are his passion, specifically the bongos. He tried out all the different percussive instruments and said that while it was a bit noisy, the event was unlike anything he’d been to before and was definitely worthwhile.  

About 10 minutes before 11, the lights started fading in and out signaling that it was time to head downstairs to the auditorium for the concert. 

On stage, Music Director Peter Rubardt, dressed up in traditional train conductor garb, a play on his role as the conductor of the orchestra, and Kayla Garrett from the West Florida Public Library, served as our tour guides for what played out as a journey through each of the different sections of the orchestra, gradually bringing them to the stage, one section at a time.  

Once the entire orchestra was out on stage, they ran through a number of selections ranging from popular movie scores such as Frozen and Star Wars, to some equally enjoyable, more classic numbers like the William Tell Overture and Sabre Dance. 

The production came to a close about an hour later and was met with a standing ovation, much to the delight of first time co-host, Kayla Garrett. 

“I had a great perspective being on stage,” said Garrett. “And you know, it wasn’t just the children that were into it. Of course they were dancing and bouncing, but the adults and grandparents were equally as into it. So it was really fun. I’m ready to do it again.” 

Scott and Araba Knoblock, who brought their son David, said they had a great time as well.  

“We had a really good time being able to go station to station, checking out all the instruments and whatnot and just letting the kids have hands on,” said Scott Knoblock. “And to cap it off with a real good concert. Really good.” 

Peter Krostag, one of the percussionists for the orchestra, also appointed Mayor of Drum Land,said this year was a bit different in that it took an approach geared moretowards families rather than being more formal as was the case in years past.  

“This one was like a billion times better,” said Krostag.“Because they got to experience the instruments and then I think the concert itself was just better for them.” 

Melissa Turner, education director for PSO, said it means a lot to the orchestra to have the opportunity to expose these kids to all the different instruments. 

“We’re really excited anytime we can share our love of music with others,” said Turner. “To me, it’s any age, but when they’re very young, I think it’s being able to see them light up and glow and try things that maybe they aren’t used to trying at such a young age. So, it’s very important for us to see that.” 

All in all, the event was a success, bringing in a total of 630 people.  

The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections was also on hand to conduct a poll on the most popular instrument section.After they tallied the ballots, the strings section was voted most popular again this year. 

Check out our slideshow for pictures from the event and make sure to check out the event calendar at pensacolasymphony.com to see about other upcoming events.