When the Assistant professor of music and director of orchestral studies Octavio Mas Arocas told the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night, Jan. 30 that they would be postponing their next concert, many of Lawrence’s student musicians weren’t sure how to react.
“A lot of people were really shocked because that’s not something you hear of very often, if ever,” said junior Bailey Poesnecker, who is double majoring in viola performance and music education and is a member of the orchestra.
The Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) was scheduled to perform the “Symphonie Fantastique,” a piece written in 1830 by French composer Hector Berlioz, on Saturday, Feb. 1 in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. But as the date of the concert drew closer, Maestro Mas Arocas felt that the piece was not ready to be performed.
“We are entitled to offer a certain standard,” Mas Arocas said. “We thought that we were not ready to perform the concert to the high standards we are used to.”
Poesnecker acknowledged that in the immediate aftermath of the postponement, students’ surprise turned to frustration or even outright anger, so much so that they refused to provide comments for this article. While some students felt that they had put in enough work to give a good performance, still others were upset that they had to tell friends, family and other members of the Appleton and Lawrence community that the concert wasn’t going to happen.
Despite the initial student reaction, Brian Pertl, Dean of the Conservatory, said that what happened isn’t actually that rare.
“If you look at our array of student recitals throughout the year, a good number of them are postponed for the exact same reason,” Dean Pertl said. “The repertoire was maybe a little harder than we thought, and they want the recitals to be as good as they can be, and so the faculty and students decide [to postpone]. That’s basically what happened here.“
Dean Pertl also acknowledged that students looked at this postponement differently—instead of being one student, it was the entire LSO. To provide outlets for students to voice their concerns, the Student Advisory Committee for the LSO held a meeting that other Conservatory students were allowed to attend and ask questions.
Additionally, there was an online survey open until Monday, Feb. 4, which students could use to submit questions and comments. Dean Pertl said he and Mas Arocas would read over the responses and address the most frequently asked questions and concerns with the entire orchestra. He feels that this has helped students.
“To me, the tension that was happening last week was sort of that unknown has kind of dissipated over the weekend,” Dean Pertl said.
In the end, Dean Pertl, Poesnecker and Mas Arocas all agree that postponing the concert was the best decision.
“We weren’t ready,” said Poesnecker. “If everyone is completely honest with each other, we weren’t ready with that concert.” Later she continued, “We all want to move forward from this because it has been hard, but I think people can look at it really positively and just kind of learn from it. It’s just stepping back and having that perspective, and I think now that some time has passed a lot of people are coming around to that. But you’re always going to have those people that are going to point fingers and blame other people.”
“I only care about the music and the musicians, that’s what I do,” said Mas Arocas. “So keep talking…keep doing whatever, and we are going to keep doing what we do, which is being the best musicians that we can be”
The LSO concert has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 12.