Worried that your kid isn't getting enough cultural exposure? Maybe it's the parent who is behind the times, because if your child has spent any time video gaming, or is a "Star Wars" fan, then he's been exposed to, influenced by and already has an emotional connection to classical music.
"Classical music provides a direct shot to the emotions, it bypasses your brain," explained esteemed concertmaster Jeremy Constant. "Then the composer can do whatever he wants to do with your emotions from there."
Have your children take another listen to that game. When a high score is on the line, ask them how they feel. When their avatar is in a risky position, have them listen to the music playing.
"In a video game, classical music is taken to a visual level," Constant said. "The player is scared for some reason, the music is telling them it's a scary place."
So, it may not be as hard as you think to get your tween or teen to follow you and your picnic basket to the free summer symphony, which officially gets underway at the Sun Valley Pavilion on Monday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. with soprano Deborah Voigt and the music of composers Wagner and R. Strauss.
If you lost your kid with the last sentence, consider this, the second in command to the big man on campus, Summer Symphony Music Director and maestro Alasdair Neale, is concertmaster and lead violin Jeremy Constant.
One of the world's most elite concertmasters, Constant is no music geek. In fact, he will fly in for the next few weeks of concerts in his own airplane, Stella Luna, an RV-7A aircraft that he built from a kit. His visual artist wife, Sharon, recently painted the plane for him complete with the scallops and lines reminiscent of World War II designs and a bat, from the story that inspired the plane's name.
And, adding a dash of intrigue, Constant often shows up at California's Livermore Municipal Airport in full tuxedo as his flight suit, with only the violin tucked under his arm betraying his intention as he scoots between concerts in his role as assistant concertmaster to the San Francisco Symphony and many others.
The Julliard-trained violinist who started playing at 7 admits he cut his teeth on classical music like most people, with the Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes cartoons theme music.
"Most people have been exposed, they just don't realize it," he said. "If you've ever been to a movie, chances are you've heard classical music."
For the next couple of weeks, save your movie money and turn down the video games, pack a picnic and head over to the grassy knoll of the Sun Valley Pavilion where the music is free and the locals don't mind sharing a blanket during one of the true virtues of living in Sun Valley.
The largest privately funded free-admission symphony in America, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony is celebrating 28 seasons. Founded in 1985 as the Elkhorn Music Festival by the late Carl Eberl, and his wife, Julianne, the orchestra grew from 22 musicians to 55 during his tenure. Today, and under Neale's leadership since 1995, the orchestra has grown to more than 100 players and presents free concerts to more than 50,000 people annually.
The full symphony orchestra includes distinguished musicians from major orchestras throughout North America, and has attracted internationally acclaimed guest artists and ensembles including Itzhak Perlman, and this year the vaulted soprano, Voight, who opens the season.
Generous donors, underwriters and the annual benefit concert, this year's featuring trumpeter Chris Botti on July 29, make the summer symphony possible, as they do The School of Music, now in its 13th year, the Summer Music Workshops and other adult and community education outreach. The personable Neale makes appearances at the Community Library in "Upbeat With Alisdair" lectures to keep engaging future audiences as well.
Executive Director Jennifer Teisinger said Neale has compiled an evocative 2012 season anchored with an emotional center surrounded by a variety of musical selections that end on a jubilant note.
"We have big, fun, crowd-pleasing music," Teisinger said, "like Dvořák's 'New World,' and over-the-top and a little indulgent ear candy, like Respighi's 'Pines of Rome'—a lot of stuff that's very feel good with a tragic center with Mahler at mid point."
Neale's ability to weave an emotional journey for the crowd, be it in one night, or all season, is what attracts audiences. That, along with the setting, is why musicians want to come here.
"They make this their summer vacation," Teisinger said.
And no matter how big the performer, except for the benefit gala, which, Teisinger called "our one big splash to make it all real," they will keep it free and continue housing musicians with hosts in private homes.
"Even if we could charge we wouldn't because it would totally change the culture," she said.
She said collaboration with the library and The Sun Valley Center for the Arts for additional programming like the In Focus Series is key because both entities can offer perspectives of, and access to, the music and related art forms being presented, to allow people who want to get a deeper perspective.
"There are people who want a metamorphosis," she said. "And we couldn't do that alone. But if people just want to drink some wine and listen to music, that's cool too."
Patrons can also get concert program notes on the symphony's website or watch them on Smartphones.
Constant, whose job it is to help Neale deliver his vision, said providing free exposure to the music opens doors once the musicians return home.
"There are people who would never consider a concert hall—they're intimidated by it, it seems standoffish," he explained. "But here you can come out to the lawn, bring your dogs and your kids and your picnics, and if you like what you hear, when you go back home, you might try it again. And if this is your first concert, it's a helluva home orchestra to start with."
To get to know Concertmaster Jeremy Constant a bit better, see a Q&A.
Clip and save: Free Sun Valley Summer Symphony events
The Edgar M. Bronfman In Focus Series this year is an intimate look at both the end and the beginning of an era—the "fin de siècle" of late 19th-century Vienna and the explosion of creativity that grew out of centuries of musical tradition in Europe's capital city of composition. The fin de siècle mindset in Europe saw a society in crisis that was in need of a new beginning, and it is this expression that is most associated with the birth of the modernist movement. Led by Symphony Music Director Alasdair Neale, musicians and special guests, these four concerts will integrate an educational discussion about each piece, allowing a deeper dive into each performance.
When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22, Monday, July 23, Wednesday, July 25 and Friday, July 27.
Where: Sun Valley Pavilion.
How: Just show up and take a seat.
What: For program details, visit
Critically acclaimed trumpeter Chris Botti, one of People magazine's Most Beautiful, performs a benefit concert for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. This event is one of the major contributors to keeping the symphony season free to the public as well as funding educational outreach during the year.
When: Sunday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Sun Valley Pavilion.
How: Seating available in the pavilion only. The $250 and $550 tickets include a reserved seat and 5 p.m. cocktail reception on the Sun Valley Lodge Terrace. The $50 and $100 seats are sold out. Visit svsummersymphony.tix.com.
The 2012 Sun Valley Summer Symphony Season concerts run most nights from July 30-Aug. 14 and are led by Music Director Alasdair Neale and Concertmaster Jeremy Constant. They begin at 6:30 p.m. and last 60-75 minutes. The Family Concert, Aug. 11, begins at 2 p.m. The pavilion opens at 5:30 p.m. Lawn view has an LED screen.
Opening night: July 30, with Deborah Voigt, soprano. Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from "Die Walküre"; R. Strauss songs, "Befreit," "Frulingsfeier," "Morgen," "Zueignung," Wagner's "Götterdämmerung," "Siegfried's Funeral March," "Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene."
Wednesday, Aug. 1, with William VerMeulen, horn. Eberl Tribute "It Happened in Sun Valley;" Van Eechaute "Poème Nocturne for Horn;" Mozart "Concerto No. 3 for Horn in E-flat Major K. 447;" Elgar "Enigma Variations, Opus 36."
Thursday, Aug. 2, is Mendelssohn "Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Opus 90," "Italian"; Respighi "Pines of Rome."
Saturday, Aug. 4, is Pops Night with Jeff Tyzik, conductor, Juliana Athayde, violin. Williams "Liberty Fanfare;" arr. Tyzik "Fantasy on American Themes;" Copland "Hoedown from Rodeo;" O'Connor "Strings & Threads;" arr. Tyzik "Jelly Roll Morton Suite," Williams "The Patriot;" arr. Tyzik "Armed Forces Song Medley," Tyzik "A Call to Worship," Williams "Olympic Fanfare and Theme."
Sunday, Aug. 5, is On the Lighter Side with Jon Kimura Parker, piano. R. Strauss "Sunrise" from "Also Sprach Zarathustra;" Satie "Gymnopédie No. 2;" Mozart allegro from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525;" Gershwin "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess;" Mendelssohn "Wedding March" from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Opus 61"; Offenbach "Galop (Can-Can)" from "Orpheus in the Underworld;" Rachmaninoff "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43."
Tuesday, Aug. 7, is Mahler "Symphony No. 6 in A Minor." Special 90-minute performance.
Thursday, Aug. 9, is Musicians' Choice Chamber Music with Tompkins "Boardgames;" Mozart "Serenade No. 11 in E-flat Major for Wind Octet, K.375;" Brahms "Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 60."
Friday, Aug. 10, with James Ehnes, violin; Grieg "Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt;" Sibelius "Concerto in D Minor for Violin, Opus 47."
Saturday, Aug. 11, is the Family Concert at 2 p.m. with Ridley Pearson, narrator, Copland "Hoedown From Rodeo," Alex Orfaly "Cowboy Bill" (Sun Valley Summer Symphony commission and world premiere).
Sunday, Aug. 12, is Barber "Overture to the School for Scandal;" Dvořák "Symphony No. 9 in E Minor," "From the New World."
Tuesday, Aug. 14, is the Season Finale with Tchaikovsky "Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Opus 64."
Beyond the music: In an extension of the study of "fin de siècle," the Summer Symphony, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Community Library collaborated in free, related events.
- At the Community Library in Ketchum is "Mahler on the Couch" Tuesday, July 24, from 6-7 p.m. A short film and exuberant imagining in which Gustav Mahler's tempestuous wife is revealed as a cheater sending Mahler to Sigmund Freud for consultation.
- At the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Thursday, Sept. 6, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Rebecca Houze, associate professor of art history at Northern Illinois University, will present "Modernism and Fashion in Fin de Siècle Vienna.