Children are able to view and try out instruments during the “instrument petting zoo” that was part of the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra’s family concert Oct. 6 at Lake Geneva Middle School. (Tom Ganser photo)

By Tom Ganser


On Oct. 6, the audience for the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra’s family concert at Lake Geneva Middle School that included children was treated to a performance of four musical selections and an adventure in learning about music led by LGSO music director David Anderson.

Lake Geneva resident and bassoon musician Rob Keefe serves as president of the Lake Geneva Orchestra.

“The Lake Geneva Symphony views its mission to extend beyond bringing live orchestral music to Walworth County,” he said. “We are trying to create a culture of music and the arts in our community. This starts with our kids.

“With children selecting a musical instrument in fifth grade, the years between 10 and 13 are crucial in cementing instrumental music in a child’s life, and, through them, the rest of the family. We have made outreach to this crucial age group a key part of our season, beginning with the family concert and including our school days performances, and our new program to provide scholarships to defray the cost of private lessons for beginning learners.”

After a concert by the Lake Geneva Middle School Orchestra, the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra began its concert with “Hungarian Dance No. 6” by Johannes Brahms.

Anderson then asked the audience members to raise their hands if they had never heard a symphony orchestra in a live performance before.

“We’re going to talk about a couple different kinds of music,” he said. “Two pieces will be of one kind of music and two pieces of other kind of music.”

In describing the Brahms selection as an example of the first kind of music, Anderson said, “The music is about … just music. It doesn’t have any kind of a story going on. It’s not about a person.

“You probably developed some strong emotions. This is one of the good things that music does. It makes you feel certain ways, but there was actually no story behind the music.”

Anderson introduced the four sections of the orchestra by having each section play the same few measures from the Imperial March from “Star Wars” by John Williams, and asking the musicians to hold up their instrument. He also described how sound is created by the different instruments, starting with how violin, viola, cello and bass musicians move a bow across the strings to make a sound. The percussion section musicians “have sticks and they bang them on drums and sometimes they crash things together. … All kinds of things in the percussion section,” he said. The woodwind and brass musicians “blow wind through their instruments” as they “use air to make their sounds,” he said.

Before performing the Imperial March, Anderson shared, “This (other) kind of music is about a story or an idea or a person.”

Anderson introduced an excerpt from Symphony No. 3 on the organ by Camille Saint-Saëns by singing a few notes as “Lu” and asking the audience to repeat the notes. The strings then played the same notes, adding several more complex variations and were then joined by the entire orchestra. Anderson used the exercise to demonstrate how a musical composition can be built.

The Saint-Saëns, Anderson said, “is an example of the first kind of music, like the Brahms. It’s not about a story, it doesn’t have a person in this story. It’s about music.”

The LGSO concert ended with a performance of Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev.

Simon Johnson, a freshman at Madison West High School, served as narrator and introduced the composition as “The story of Peter and the Wolf. It’s a musical story where every character is represented by a different instrument in the orchestra.”

Ever since its composition in 1936, “Peter and the Wolf” has helped children learn about a symphonic orchestra. On Mar. 6, 1960, at a New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert, Leonard Bernstein described “Peter and the Wolf” as having “plenty of youngness … It’s about the young, and it’s for the young.”

Lori Meyer, a cello player with the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra since 2017 and an elementary and middle school orchestra teacher, said, “Peter and the Wolf is a fairy tale story that magically introduces the orchestra to young people. Generations of adults also remember the music.”

After the concert, the children in the audience had the opportunity to visit an “instrument petting zoo” where, Anderson said, “You’re going to get a chance to look at instruments up close. You will see them played. For some of the instruments, you will even be able to play them yourself.”

The next Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at Calvary Community Church in Williams Bay. Tickets are $18 with free admission for kindergarten to college students.

The concert will feature Frank Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, in a performance of the Max Bruch Violin Concerto. Also performed will be Symphony No. 3 – the “Organ Symphony” – by Saint-Saëns.

Tickets can be purchased and more information about the LGSO concert and chamber music series found at


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