SIERRA VISTA — Nearly 1,200 Cochise County fifth-graders were launched into the cosmos Friday through a Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra space exploration concert.

Conducted by Toru Tagawa, the symphony delivered two adventure-packed programs filled with musical scores from such star-studded movies as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Star Wars,” “Apollo 13” and “Star Trek.”

The children from around 22 schools throughout the county were transported to the Klein Center for the Performing Arts at Buena High School in two different shifts for the production.

For the past 20 years, the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra Association has treated fifth-graders from schools across Cochise County to an symphony concert as a way to expose them to live music by an orchestra.

And the kids love it.

“Most of these children have never attended a live orchestra concert before they walk into this theater,” said Bobbie Moore, who chairs the symphony association’s education committee. “They’re completey awestruck from the time they step inside and see the musicians on stage. I’ve been involved with the children’s concert for 20 years with Dr. Renae Humburg, and it’s always exciting to see how much the kids love these productions.”

Kathy Marvin, another member of the education committee, is a retired music teacher who goes into schools and talks to the children about the concert by introducing them to the composers and instruments.

The students are encouraged to participate in a writing and art contest after the concert.

“The winners are recognized during an intermission at the April Symphony Concert,” Humburg said. “The artwork for the student with the winning piece of art will be used on the cover of the next children’s concert.”

Artwork by Eduardo Naverrete of Naco Elementary School was featured on the cover of Friday’s concert.

The annual children’s concert was designed as a condensed version of the Saturday Sierra Vista orchestra winter concert on Saturday, also with Tagawa conducting.

“More than 20,000 students have attended the children’s concert through the years,” Humburg said. “We want to expose children to a live concert because we hope they become interested in classical music. The longevity of the orchestra depends on future generations.”

Tagawa, who said he looks forward to the children’s concert every year, also emphasized the importance of exposing children to live music.

“This is a very important experience for these kids. Experiencing a live symphony gives most of these children the opportunity of seeing musicians for the first time,” he said. “They also learn about different instruments and the sounds those instruments make to create the full orchestra.”

Midway through the concert, Tagawa introduced each family of instruments, starting with the string family, progressing through the woodwind, brass and percussion families. Musicians in each group played a brief piece from a popular score of music on their instrument, giving the audience a feel for the individual instrument’s tone and how it contributes to the overall symphonic sound.

From the time the orchestra started, until the “William Tell Overture” grand finale, the youngsters loved what they were hearing.

“Today (Friday) was a great day,” said Huachuca Mountain fifth-grade teacher Brenda Kilmurray. “My kids were beyond excited. They loved every minute of the concert and couldn’t stop talking about it. More importantly, many are now inspired to play musical instruments themselves.”

Kylei Murphy, a Center for Academic Success (CAS) student said, “When I walked in here and saw all the musicians on the stage, I couldn’t believe how beautiful the instruments looked. I think they’re really pretty.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a symphony and I really liked it, especially the ‘Star Wars’ music.”

CAS teacher Rose Marie Dokken also praised the experience with, “This is an excellent opportunity for the kids. I think it’s a wonderful way to expose them to classical music.”

When asked what he thought of the concert, Preston Bidon of Huachuca City School said, “I thought it was awesome. I liked the whole concert, but I think ‘Star Wars’ was my favorite part.”

And the rave reviews continued.

“I liked the way the conductor got excited when he led the orchestra,” said Tabitha Malave of Huachuca City School. “I liked learning about the instruments, hearing the ‘Star Wars’ music, and I really liked the ending (‘William Tell Overture’).”

Symphony member Rebecca Robinson has been playing with the orchestra for about 13 years, and is the band director at Tombstone High School.

“I love the kids concert,” she said. “This exposes them to great music and it inspires a lot of kids to appreciate live music in a fun setting. They learn a lot at this concert, so it’s a wonderful experience for them.”

Wafaa Smith is a member of the symphony board with her husband, Barry.

At the end of the concert, she described watching how the children reacted to the music as overwhelming.

“As soon as the music starts, they’re awestruck,” she said. “Toru (Tagawa) is amazing in how he captures the children and holds their attention. He’s an incredible teacher.”

Retired Sierra Vista Unified School District teacher Margaret Klein also enjoyed watching the children.

“It’s wonderful to see the reaction of the children and their interaction with the conductor and the symphony. It all comes together so beautifully during the concert. We do this to keep the symphony alive for future generations.

“These kids are our future.”

Children’s concert program

Also “Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss (“2001: A Space Odyssey” theme song)

“Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner/Jonathan Sheffer

“Star Wars” theme by John Williams

“Bugler’s Holiday” by Leroy Anderson

“Mars and Jupiter” from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst

Finale from “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Rossini

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