I had the most incredible day of my life yesterday, and I wanted to share it here.
Lyn McLain founded the DC Youth Orchestra program in 1960, and was director of the program as well as the music director of its senior orchestra until early this year when he announced his retirement. This man is a hero in the DC community, having introduced many thousands of students to the wonders of music and the joy of playing in orchestras and other ensembles. When he announced he was retiring, the community rose up and organized a gala event, culminating in a performance at the Kennedy Center by a huge orchestra consisting of many alumni and some current students of the program.
I played in the orchestra under McLain for three years as a student. I went to McLain in 1979 when I was 15 and showed him my Symphony no. 1. He graciously allowed a reading, and later a performance. He then helped arrange my participation in the 1980 Children's Festival of Music in Sofia Bulgaria, and even personally chaperoned me in my trip behind the iron curtain. My gratitude toward him knows no bounds. He helped put the sound of the orchestra in my ear, and helped me hear my very first orchestral work, giving me the confidence to continue as a composer to this day.
I was commissioned to write a short orchestral piece in honor of Maestro McLain for this concert. I was privileged to be in attendance at two of the rehearsals, and met the director for the concert, John McLaughlin Williams. (Of course I may "accidentally" leave out the middle name when telling this story some time )
It was an incredibly joyful time for me seeing so many of my old friends I hadn't seen in twenty years. There were many hugs and tears, and I met many new friends as well. At a pre-concert reunion picnic on Saturday, many of these people (including myself) were granted a few minutes to talk about McLain's impact on their lives, and the stories were so touching. I have never known a man so beloved by so many people. So many former students telling this gentle soul "I love you." I had the opportunity to present him with a signed score of my work.
At the concert, we were seated in a side box near the stage along with McLain, and other important members of the program past and present. There were about 1200 audience members by my rough estimation. The concert included Gershwin, Copland, Beethovan, Bach, and my work, and was very well received.
It was amazing to hear my work played by such a large orchestra. There were 137 players onstage! I was very pleased with the performance of my work, and I was asked to stand and take a bow from the box in front of all those people. My heart was pounding as I expressed thanks to the orchestra, and to Maestros Williams and McLain.
After this, McLain took the podium, and conducted the orchestra himself for one last time. His beautiful rendition of a Bach chorale brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing man, and what an absolute honor it was to write a work for him. This was a day I will never forget as long as I live.