ALBANY — Children had the chance to see, hear and touch symphonic instruments during a hands-on instrument petting zoo put on by the Albany Symphony Orchestra on Saturday morning. The well attended event led to a special family friendly matinee showing of the Peppermint Pops performance of of holiday music conducted by Claire Fox Hillard.
By 10 a.m. the lobby of Albany Municipal Auditorium was packed with families eager to give their young ones the opportunity to try out instruments for themselves. Symphony musicians were on hand to demonstrate how the instruments worked and to give each child a quick lesson on how to hold and use each item. Not only that, but words of encouragement had even the most hesitant youngsters banging on drums, tapping on triangles and blowing into tubas and flutes.
It was a festive event filled with smiles and laughter, sights and sounds that are bound to evoke long-lasting and fond memories.
Marilyn Nobles heard about the instrument petting zoo through some volunteer work she had done for the symphony. She brought her 6-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn Nobles, who was ready to try out all of the instruments. It turns out she liked the violin the best, but also enjoyed playing the drums.
Joanna Pepple, a violin player with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, had her concert violin on hand, along with a miniature child’s violin that was designed for 5 or 6 year olds.
“They are made in several sizes,” she said. “Most of the children like this size the best because it fits snug on their shoulders.”
Pepple said this was her first time participating in the instrument petting zoo.
“I’m really enjoying it,” she said.
Claire Prchal and her two girls, Mosely Prchal, 4, and Paige Prchal, 2, also appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Mosely listened closely as she was instructed on how to hold and play the violin.
“This is our first time here,” Prchal said. “I heard about it from friends on Facebook.”
Prchal said her daughters were “very excited” to touch and listen to the instruments.
“I think they enjoyed the drums the best, but they seem to like them all,” she said.
Instruments were set up in the lobby and in side rooms down two hallways. The lobby was especially crowded with children of all ages.
Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Rivera Holmes was spotted with her 5-year-old daughter, Alajandra Holmes.
“We’ve enjoyed the Albany Symphony for years,” she said. “The petting zoo connects our children with the instruments and the music.”
Holmes also said her daughter seemed to like the drums the best, although she has had some experience playing the flute.
“I play the flute so my daughter gets to tinker with it at home,” she said.
Holmes said the symphony brings visitors to downtown Albany and also families together. With family friendly events like this one, Holmes also said children get to see their friends from school and from other extracurricular activities.
Alajandra was enjoying the event with her friends Bo McNair, 5; Layla McNair, 6, and Mary Ellis Bazemore, 7.
Symphony Executive Director Joelle Fryman said that Saturday night’s holiday symphony concert, which was part of the Paul Peach Masterworks series, sold more than 150 tickets in advance but it was “hard to gauge” how many matinee seats would be taken.
“Some come out just for the petting zoo while others buy their tickets for the symphony once they arrive. We sold maybe 25 tickets in advance, but we sold several at the door. I would guess maybe 100 to 150 matinee tickets will be sold at the door,” Fryman said.
As for the petting zoo, Fryman said the educational event has been offered “off and on” in the past.
“Music is a language for everyone no matter how old or how young. Music transcends it all,” Fryman said. “So many think the symphony is something to be seen and heard but not accessible. This makes it a hands-on education and it makes a load of difference. We are very excited about it. Each time it is a great success.”
Fryman said she wants to see the petting zoo become an ongoing symphony event.
“We hope to make it a holiday tradition. This is the year for us to rebuild and revitalize our program, so we hope to keep bringing it back. The children and the parents love it,” she said.
The matinee was also the first time that the orchestra attempted a multimedia performance, providing the musical score for the 1982 short animated feature “The Snowman.” There was to be an encore performance of that with the lengthier Saturday night Peppermint Pops performance. The matinee version was successful, and Hillard has said he hopes to do future concerts at which the orchestra provides to music for full-length films.