Community members and students were treated to a special guest performance at Valley Symphony Orchestra (VSO) concerts on Oct. 6 and 7 at The University of Texas-Pan American Fine Arts Auditorium, when UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas narrated the "Lincoln Portrait" in the kick-off of the Symphony's 2004-2005 concert series.
Two Oct. 6 performances were presented to more than 2,000 Edinburg ISD fifth-graders as part of the children's concert series provided each year to Rio Grande Valley students. More than 9,000 Valley students attended 2003-2004 VSO concert performances.
Presiding over the podium, Dabrowski, who was dressed in tails, said he wanted the students to feel as if they were at an evening concert performance. Beside the "Lincoln Portrait," the student concerts also included portions of Johannes Brahms' Academic Festival Overture and Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30 performed by Russian pianist Sergey Musaelyan. All pieces were performed in full at the Oct. 7 evening concert.
Dabrowski said he invited Cárdenas to perform the "Lincoln Portrait," which requires the difficult task of matching powerful text with the music, and found her "very natural to work with."
The "Lincoln Portrait" was written in 1942 by American composer Aaron Copland as one of a series of commissioned musical portraits of American heroes and proved to be one of Copland's most popular works in the United States. Copland's music included parts of American folk songs and songs popular during the Civil War and added words from President Abraham Lincoln's speeches and letters. The piece has been performed by many famous actors and other women, including Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"She (Cárdenas) came fully prepared and professional. Her commitment to education and excellence couldn't be clearer. She has a very busy schedule and found time to perform for all these fifth graders from Edinburg. It's been an honor for me and the musicians to have her perform," Dabrowski said.
As part of the preparation for attending, the Edinburg students studied the orchestra make-up and pieces performed. Their preparation readily showed when they quickly and enthusiastically answered questions about the different sections of the orchestra from Dabrowski before the beginning of each performance.
Following a standing ovation from the students at the end of the first performance, Vanessa Rodriguez, a student at Anita Villarreal School in Edinburg, said the concert was exciting and fun. "My favorite part was when they were playing and talking about Lincoln," she said.
One of the VSO violinists, Melinda Maness, an orchestra teacher for the McAllen ISD, said Cárdenas' appearance shows she is supportive of music in the Rio Grande Valley.
"Her appearance gives credibility to the music programs in the University and in public education," she said. The orchestra includes many UTPA alumni and close to 40 current students, faculty and staff as VSO members.
The Oct. 7 evening performance by the VSO was underwritten by the UTPA Foundation with the audience welcomed by Foundation Board President Joe Ramirez.
For more information on the VSO 2004-2005 season, visit www.valleyorchestra.org