News and Notes - February 2021

The SVA’s News and Notes is a quarterly publication that reviews the previous quarter’s accomplishments and provides a preview of activities to come. Comments and suggestions are welcome at SVACommunications@slso.org

Notes From the President:

To My SVA Family, Bonjour!

First of all, I want to wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and safe 2021! With vaccines on the way, I’m hoping that before long, we will be able to greet each other personally and share that marvelous experience of listening to our beloved St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on stage at Powell Hall!

I want to take this opportunity to thank Laura Dwyer and members of the SLSO staff for putting together such a wonderful Winter Heat on January 6. As you know, Winter Heat is the SLSO’s thank you to the SVA for our many hours of volunteer work. With Laura’s help, they showcased not only three SLSO musicians, Jelena Dirks, Jonathan Reycraft, and Andrea Kaplan, but also included their parents, SVA members Karen and Doug Dirks, Nancy and Lee Reycraft, and Patty and Jeff Kaplan in a lively discussion. It was truly a “Family Matters” production! Of course, we can’t let the SLSO thank us without thanking them right back for all they do for us!

In past News and Notes, I’ve shared quotes from books I’ve read, but this time, I thought I’d describe a scene from a movie many of you have undoubtedly seen (spoiler alert, if you’re in Pioneers literary group with me, you heard me speak about this scene already!). It’s from the movie Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams. It’s based on a true story about a brilliant medical student (Williams) who has a breakdown before he starts medical school, and he checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. (I know you’re wondering what this has to do with us—I promise you, there is a point!) At the hospital, he meets a fellow patient, a well- known mathematician (played by Harold Gould) who is talking to him one day and says,

“Patch, look at me—tell me what you see,” as he holds up four fingers.
“Four fingers,” replies Adams.
“No, Patch—you’re just looking at what’s in front of you. Look beyond the four fingers and tell me what you see.”

This time as Williams looks at Gould, the screen shows eight fingers, and he smiles and says, “I see eight.”

Gould responds (and I’m paraphrasing): “You have the ability to see beyond what’s in front of you, to recognize the many possibilities that exist beyond what you normally see and do. Not everybody has that gift.”

As I watched this scene recently, I couldn’t help but think that Gould’s response sums up the incredible programming that our brilliant SLSO staff has produced during this pandemic—they truly saw beyond what currently existed and tapped into possibilities they probably never would have discovered otherwise. They definitely have that gift! (See, I told you there was a point!)  Together, with our capable leaders and enthusiastic volunteers—you—we have created new online opportunities for Picture the Music and Express the Music, Instrument Playground activities, membership meetings, and found many ways to stay connected during this trying time. I couldn’t be more proud of our many accomplishments which you will read about in this News and Notes as well as in future emails!

I’ll let the individual Chairs, Vice Chairs, and Team Leaders showcase what they’ve been doing. Here’s a taste of three new programs:

First – I hope you read Eric Dundon’s excellent SLSO Stories article which features our involvement (along with Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity) creating instruments for Early Childhood programming which Sarah Ruddy, SLSO Education Program Coordinator has developed. Jim Schindler and Karen Nichols, Instrument Playground Chair and Vice Chair, took the lead in this project, and I know you’ll enjoy reading Jim’s behind-the-scenes recounting of our participation (and escapades) in this News and Notes.

Second – Per the Discovery Committee’s request, I formed a special committee whose purpose was to devise a way for our members to stay connected and continue to get to know each other. The new committee of Becky Brown, Marilyn Humiston, Jim Moore, Patty Kaplan, Janice Seele, and Suzanne Seibel created a monthly Zoom series we’re calling Cocktails and Conversation. Our first event will be held on Tuesday, February 16, 5:00–6:00pm. By now, you should have received your invitation. If you haven’t responded but would like to join us, please contact Laurad@slso.org, and she will send you the Zoom link. It will be a lot of fun as we listen to Florence Price’s “Juba Dance,” from her First Symphony (PTM’s musical selection), share ideas, and of course enjoy a toast together!

Third The Adult version of PTM/ETM! After 30 years of watching our children have so much fun participating in Picture the Music and Express the Music, we are going to join in on the fun as well! This will be your opportunity to listen to “Juba Dance” (mentioned above) and express yourself creatively. No pressure, no judging—everybody’s a winner! You already received our announcement, but please refer to the article in News and Notes under Membership for all the details.

One last thought:

Let’s plan to be together for our March “brunch,” on Saturday, March 13, 10:30am–12:00pm. As always, the Membership Committee is planning something special, so watch for your invitation. Although they can’t take the place of meeting in person, I really look forward to our virtual get-togethers, whether they be committee meetings, board meetings, membership meetings, or “just for fun” meetings. I must continually thank our own Laura Dwyer for being the glue that holds us together and ensures the success of our many events. We are so lucky to have her as our fearless leader. She is talented in so many ways and one of the nicest people you will ever meet!

À bientôt,

Phyllis Traub
SVA President

Reminder - Membership Directory: The 2020/2021 Membership Directory is still available! If you would like a printed copy, please send an email to SVADirectory@slso.org for instructions for safe, no contact pick-up. You may also view the online version at this link. Need help accessing the online Membership Directory? Call your committee chair or VP, or email Susan Pribble at SVADirectory@slso.org for instructions and the password. 

In the interest of making sure that we are able to keep you up to date on the activities of both the SVA and the SLSO, please let us know any changes to your contact information – new home address, email address, phone number, etc. A simple email to SVADirectory@slso.org will do.


Winter Heat: Stéphane greets the SVA: Zoom Call - Stephane Deneve

Fall Meeting photos:

Zoom Call - Laura Dwyer Zoom Call - Erik Finley

Zoom Call - Gerry PaganoZoom Call - Beth Guterman Chu Zoom Call - Chris Dwyer

Zoom Call

Meetings and Events: 
The Meetings and Events Committee has put their collective heads together to create another wonderful Membership Meeting in lieu of our usual Winter Brunch. We will come together on March 13th at 10:30am to enjoy musical entertainment and fun and informative breakout sessions. Please watch for addition information and plan on joining us via Zoom!

Picture the Music and Express the Music—for Adults!
Where will the music lead your imagination? For more than 30 years, students across the St. Louis region have participated in Picture the Music and Express the Music. In this most unusual of years, the SVA invites our members to join the fun!

We encourage you to listen to this year’s PTM musical selection, “Juba Dance,” the third movement of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor. Then, respond to it in whatever manner is most meaningful to you: drawing, painting, photography, poetry, sculpture, story—or something else we haven’t thought of yet. The medium is up to you, and feel free to be as creative as you like! The sky’s the limit!

Join us for our first Cocktails & Conversations on February 16 at 5:00pm. We’ll listen to “Juba Dance” together, and Laura Dwyer will lead a discussion about the work and composer. If you can’t attend—or if you want to start early—you can find the piece on YouTube or Spotify.

Unlike ETM and PTM, this isn’t a contest. But we do want to see your work! We’ll gather all of these creative endeavors into an online book to share.

The Rules:
Submit your work from Feb. 16 through Feb. 28.
Take a photo (or two), or save your written document.
Email your file (jpg, pdf, or doc) to svaexpressthemusic@slso.org.
Include your name as you wish it to appear in the book.
Include a title or short description, if you’d like.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to SVAMembershipVP@slso.org.


Early Childhood Programming:
Consistent with our stated purpose to support the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra through unique education programs, exciting volunteer opportunities, fundraising projects and more, SVA members reach thousands of students each season. For example, the Instrument Playground activity is one of the component parts of the Tiny Tunes Concerts in Powell Hall for pre-school and kindergarten children each season. Volunteers have to adapt the demonstration of some of the instruments which would be too hard for the child to blow, or too heavy, and dangerous, to hold. In addition, children of all ages are served with hands-on instrument experience during the hour before the SLSO’s Sunday afternoon Family Concerts.

Instrument Playground: “Cans Into Instruments” and Bean Bags
The Symphony Volunteer Association became involved with collecting cans, and sewing bean bags and scarves, for the SLSO’s Early Childhood Program.

The can-collecting portion of the project came about in late November 2020 when the SVA Vice President for Education and Community Programs, Kent McNeil, was contacted by the SLSO Early Childhood Coordinator, Sarah Ruddy, requesting possible SVA assistance. She was seeking a way to create some of the materials used in making individual “instrument” kits to be provided to each child in the preschool and kindergarten classrooms chosen to be partners in the SLSO’s Symphony In Your School, Jr., program.

The individual kits replace shareable sets of classroom instruments which are now precluded from use due to COVID-19. The items requested from the SVA would be made from household and recycled materials, thus saving limited funds from the Symphony’s budget. At least 150 cans would be needed.

Since the subject of the initial project involved collecting cans for the making of instruments, Kent contacted Instrument Playground committee chair Jim Schindler to orchestrate the project. The cans will be used to imitate a couple of percussion instruments, specifically used alternately as a drum and a güiro, with the ridges on the side of the can being scraped with the stick to create musical sound.

A request was sent to the SVA membership participation and instructions for what was needed. Eight members stepped forward to be collection points for cans. The timing of the request was ideal since the collection period covered the prime holiday baking periods of the year. While there was not a competition among the volunteer can collectors for the number of cans collected (SVA President Phyllis Traub would have won), there did rapidly develop a competition in the exchanges of emails: who could make the cleverest use of the word “can.” Lines like “I can do it if you can,” “I cannot thank you enough,” “Candidly, these emails are a lot of fun,” and “Can the humor,” provided these SVA members a humorous opportunity to remain engaged with other SVA members at a time that their regular committee activity has been dormant.

Not only did SVA members jump at the opportunity to help the SLSO Education team during this pandemic, they also enlisted the support of their neighbors and friends. Kent McNeil left a message on his condo’s bulletin board about the can drive, along with a large basket. The cans began appearing one or two at a time. In four weeks, the 22-unit building filled the basket with 45 cans. People love supporting the SLSO.

A second phase of the project became the creation of small bean bags to be used as additional sound sources, and scarves that can be waved in the air along with music. This portion of the project was tasked to SVA Instrument Playground Vice Chair Karen Nichols, a percussion teacher by trade, a sewer by avocation. At this writing, she is organizing interested SVA members who sew and have stepped forward to help make these items for the same educational program. On the day the communication was sent out to the membership, over 60 replies were received offering help!  Special thanks to Penny Bari, Debbie Dillon, Kent McNeil, Karen Nichols, Susan Pribble, Jim and Glenna Schindler, Phyllis Traub, and Connie Wepfer.

By coincidence, Schindler mentioned the sewing project to his sister-in-law, Deb Burns, who lives in northern Ontario, Canada, knowing that she is an avid sewer herself, with a large cache of scrap materials in her sewing room. In a “Hands-Across-the Border” gesture she quickly cut out and sewed 101 bean bags, mailing them to St. Louis for her sister and brother-in-law to fill with beans.

All of these activities have dual purposes. Not only do they result in the creation of musical instruments for the preschool and kindergarten children’s education program, but they also provide opportunities for involvement of the SVA members whose regular SLSO volunteer activities have been interrupted for months.

SVA President Phyllis Traub commented, “Even my son-in-law brought over all his cans, and finally I had to ask him to use his own recycling bin since my bags were overloaded.

“I also think there are SVA members who were unaware that the SLSO reaches into the [Early Childhood] programming, since our programs [IP, PTM/ETM] are geared for slightly older children. So this was a learning experience for all of us.” 

Express the Music 

February is Express the Music Month! Our deadline for submissions was January 22, and we are currently in the thick of collecting, reading, and scoring entries in our two-step judging process. Students’ entries are first read by our SVA team of preliminary readers, and then the final entries move on to our expert judges (one of whom is SVA member Terry Gates). ETM collected both Prose and Poetry submissions from 6th through 12th grade students who wrote stories and poems in response to hearing Joan Towers’ orchestral work “Made in America.” You can listen to this composition online here

We’re extremely pleased that ETM was able to switch to an entirely online process this year, helping us feel a bit triumphant over the pandemic. Thanks so much to SLSO Education and Community Programs Coordinator Brittney McIntyre for helping us through this! It’s been a learning experience for everyone involved, and it’s certainly likely that some of our new process will be useful in the future.

You can find our online information at slso.org/express.

You can contact us at SVAExpresstheMusic@slso.org

Patrice Kaplan, Chair
Liz Halpin, Vice Chair

Picture the Music
For the 31st consecutive year, SVA is sponsoring Picture the Music! Student artwork has been submitted by teachers and our panel of judges has selected the top 100 award-winning pieces of artwork.

Picture the Music is an education outreach program that showcases the creativity and learning of student artists from public, private, parochial, and homeschools in Missouri and Illinois. This free cross-curricular art competition invites students in grades K–6 to discover an orchestral work and respond with paintings or drawings that express creative thought and emotion inspired by the music. A panel of distinguished judges reviews the artwork to select the top 100 finalists and various category winners.

This year’s music selection is “Juba Dance,” the third movement of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1 in E minor. The following information about the music and the composer is excerpted from the Picture the Music Teacher’s Guide (slso.org/picture).

Florence Price (1887–1953) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she earned degrees in piano and organ performance. In 1931, Price composed her Symphony in E minor, which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered the following year. It was the first work by a composer who was a Black woman to be performed by a major symphony orchestra. The third movement, “Juba Dance,” is based on the Juba, or hambone dance. This dance was created by enslaved African people living on American plantations. It was influenced by dances some enslaved people brought with them from Africa. The dance could be performed at gatherings where instruments like drums were not allowed (to prevent secret messages from being shared). The third movement sounds cheerful, but Price’s decision to include it in her symphony was a powerful and intentional one.

By highlighting this dance, Price was able to share the experiences of many Black Americans through classical music. Not only did Price expand what American classical music could sound like, she also opened the ears of the mostly white, upper-class, symphony-goers of the time to a cultural experience from a shameful and painful part of American history.  

Zoom PTM MeetingA Zoom committee meeting was held on January 15 to share information with committee members on how Picture the Music would be offered in 2021. The most significant modification is that PTM 2021 is structured as an online program. Changes were made to honor teacher requests for more flexibility and to meet the challenges of the ongoing pandemic restrictions and precautions. An online program protects the safety of students, teachers, parents, volunteers, and staff. And, it accommodates a variety of teaching situations encountered by teachers and parents whether students are learning online, in the classroom, or in a blended format.

To support an online PTM program, the SLSO Education Team researched and procured an online entry platform that allows teachers to upload their students’ artwork. This platform allowed our panel of judges to sign in individually and select the top 100 award winners. The platform also allows us to download information necessary to process the award certificates and facilitates communications with teachers.

Planning is underway for an online Awards Ceremony this spring. One hallmark of Picture the Music is the traveling art exhibit that displays the top 100 award winning pieces of artwork at various venues in St. Louis City and County after the Awards Ceremony concludes. The physical traveling art exhibit will not occur in 2021. However, we will once again showcase the top 100 pieces of artwork on slso.org.

This year we will miss the opportunities to gather as a committee to support the various PTM activities. We are pleased, however, that the SVA will continue the tradition of offering Picture the Music to teachers and students again for the 31st consecutive year.

Philanthropy and Stewardship:

Although we will not be traveling to Jefferson City this year, it remains important to contact your state representatives and senators to support a full appropriation for the Missouri Arts Council in an extraordinarily stressful year for the SLSO and the rest of the arts industry.

The SVA Friends Committee has been on hiatus for a few months since our last big double assignment of about 1500 calls during the summer months. We are standing by and awaiting a new assignment from Joe Drexelius, Assistant Director of Individual Giving/Annual Campaign. The SLSO staff appreciates the personal contact that our committee makes with subscribers, donors, and more. Thanks to the Friends Committee for always being willing to fill requests as needed from the SLSO staff on a moment’s notice.

Sara Fabick, SVA Friends Chair

In Closing:

SLSO Stories:
Even though most of us won’t attend a live in-person performance for a while yet, there’s no reason to lose touch with our wonderful orchestra. Visit the SLSO Stories Website often to read about, watch, and listen to our musicians. It will re-invigorate and inspire you.