By Madeline Orton
Tuxes and gowns look just a bit more formal next to a few hundred middle schoolers piling into the Stockton PAC concert hall. How will Bay Atlantic Symphony bridge the gap from pop to classical? Music Director and Conductor Jed Gaylin isn’t worried, making music accessible is what he does.
Today’s Musical Humor program is Gaylin’s brainchild. He curates concerts like this as an entryway into classical music.
“We’ve been doing programs for years on how music talks,” says Gaylin. “Humor is a basic element, and it’s not obvious when you think about abstract music, and yet, it’s so potent.”
Bay Atlantic Symphony plays similar concerts for kids as they do for adults, being careful not to play overly simple works and not to make cuts to the music.
“The main thing, I think nobody wants to be condescended to,” Gaylin says. “Everyone’s saying these things like, ‘Kids have no attention span. Kids can only listen to fragmented things.’ Well, the beauty of music is that the same thing that hits for a thirty-five, or a fifty, or an eighty-five-year-old, also hits a ten-year-old. That’s how music works.”
Bay Atlantic is the only union orchestra to serve the state’s five southern-most counties, so sharing that power of music with as many kids and adults as possible is their mission.
“The population needs something here,” says Executive Director Paul Herron. “We’re in the middle of a lot of metropolitan areas, and we have to drive an hour, hour-and-a-half to go somewhere else.”
The symphony offers free educational programs for kids and adults, maintains low ticket prices, and partners with local colleges, the Cape May Music Festival, and now the Borgata, to bring music directly to the spread-out South Jersey population.
“Transportation is an area that we’re looking at now, too,” says Herron. “So, all of these things that are barriers to accessibility to music are what we’re addressing.”
Once those barriers are lifted, though, Herron and Gaylin are confident the music will speak for itself—and perhaps there’s no better proof than enthusiastic teenagers.
“It makes me learn how it really started out, not just being electric—how to really play the instrument,” says Southern Regional Middle School student Tom Siconolfi.
“If you’ve got ears and a soul, you belong here at the concert hall,” Herron says.
Bay Atlantic Symphony returns for its summer season at the Borgata in July, with concerts ranging from Brahms to Broadway.