The sound of live music was back in the air again.
After Mercer Island Orchestra director Sarah Hart helped put the finishing touches on the Islander Middle School (IMS) sixth-grade warmup, she rested her baton, leaned back and nodded her head in approval.
“I’m really proud of you. This is going to be a lot of fun,” Hart said of the first concert they were about to play together in about a year and a half due to the pandemic.
June 3 was the date, 5 p.m. was the time, the IMS gym was the venue, and the performers were ready to give the strings on their instruments a workout in a live setting once again in front of physically distanced crowd.
Everyone was wearing masks, and the spark in their eyes enunciated that it would be a special night for all.
The sixth-graders rolled through their set first, followed by the seventh-graders and then the eighth-graders closed out the concert. Each group performed 20-minute sets to separate crowds of family members, who were treated to the sounds of pieces like “Frog in a Tree” (Ed Siennicki), “Centrifuge” (Kathryn Griesinger), “Concerto in G Major, ‘Alla Rustica’” (Antonio Vivaldi) and five more.
Hart directed grades six and seven and Vicki White Miltun led the eighth-graders through their set. In all, about 100 students performed that night.
“We’re so excited. I have missed performing together, making music with these kids and listening to live music and being in a concert situation and performing. It’s just a joy to be here tonight,” Hart said.
Before the concert began, sixth-grade violinist Zoe Fanger echoed Hart’s sentiment.
“It’s very nice, because you get to restart and build up what you’ve been practicing for a while, so it’s fun,” she said.
When the pandemic hit, Fanger was unsure of what was next for her music-wise. As time moved on, and she kept practicing to improve her skills, she knew a live concert could be in her near future.
Sixth-grade bassist Aidin Azeem missed playing with his fellow musicians live and he was excited to make it happen on June 3.
“It’s a really fun hobby to play an instrument,” he said. “I feel like playing an instrument just adds a whole new perspective of how there’s an actual inanimate object that you can create music out of.”
Hart said that the kids conducted some rehearsals on Zoom and participated in some live practices when they returned to school in March.
A year earlier, Hart said that she and her students shed some tears on the day they left school near the start of the pandemic.
One of her cellists asked, “‘Ms. Hart, did something like this ever happen when you were a kid?’ And I said, ‘You know? No. Nobody knows how to do this.’ I said, ‘We’re all going to have to get really good at rolling with the punches and living in the unknown for a while,’” she said.
Hart, whose personal musical specialty is violin and viola upper strings, said that everyone’s hopeful that life seems to be moving forward with vaccinations and people returning to group gatherings.
“We’re excited about the future,” said Hart as she turned to prepare her students for the big show.