Lots of upcoming musical events in the area

What a wonderful summer filled with sunshine, family and lots and lots of music. Music is and always will be a life-long love. I was lucky enough to be born to parents who were professional musicians. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to their big band, my mother’s church organ music or a group of musical friends just hanging out and playing for fun.

Fall is a time of new beginnings. The season brings beautiful weather and, guess what, lots of new musical opportunities. It’s that time of year when church choir directors are looking for new members. School children are back in their band, orchestra or choirs.  Community music groups are also gearing up to offer both musicians and listeners multiple opportunities.

Here are a few upcoming musical events:

• Montcalm Community College (MCC) is sponsoring a performance of Handel’s Messiah at 7 p.m., Nov. 30, at the Greenville Performing Arts Center. Listeners are invited to save the date and enjoy what has become a highlight of the holiday season. Chorus participants are encouraged to attend six rehearsals.

Four Saturday morning rehearsals will be held at the First Congregational Church in Greenville from 10 a.m. to noon, Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27, in the church sanctuary.  Rehearsal will be held on the MCC campus each week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., beginning Thursday, Oct. 4, at MCC’s Doser Building, room D303. There will also be a mandatory final rehearsal on Thursday evening, Nov. 29, at the Greenville High School Performing Arts Center.

• Circle Oct. 19 on your calendar so you don’t miss the big benefit show supporting opportunities within the Greenville performing arts program through the Our 3 Fund. The show, which begins at 7:30 p.m., will feature local performers sharing their talents and making a difference by raising funds to keeps the arts alive and well in our schools.

• The Rockford Community Orchestra has a new name. It is now the Rockford Community Symphony Orchestra.  An invitation is extended to area musicians to come join the fun on Monday evenings between 7 and 8:30 p.m., at the North Rockford Middle School (10 Mile and Northland Drive) Violin, viola, cello and bass players are welcome without audition. Brass, wind and percussion musicians should call (616) 754-6602 to determine sections that have openings.

Lift your spirits as a listener, treat your brain to a performance challenge or just have fun involving yourself in music.

Article by Charlotte Lothian, a Greenville resident and retired orchestra teacher.


How long have you been involved in music and how did you get started?

Charlotte Lothian

I really can’t remember a time that I wasn’t involved in music. It was part of my family life. The first performance I remember was at a community talent show in Detroit where I sang the song “Cruisin Down the River.”

Where were you an orchestra teacher and how long did you teach?
I was the orchestra teacher at Greenville Middle for for 24 years. I also taught general music in Greenville and in Detroit.

Live in Greenville? Immediate family?
My kids all studied music. I have four children. They all played instruments when they were in school. Two played the cello, enduring their mom as their teacher, and two were in the band, one playing trumpet and one the french horn.  I have 9 grandchildren ranging in age from 13 down to 3. Two are learning to play the violin and two are playing the trumpet.

What instruments can you play?
I was a vocal major in college. The cello is my primary instrument. I also play the violin and piano for fun.

Which is your favorite and why?
My favorite is the cello. I love the low tones produced by the instrument.

What is it about music, specifically orchestra, that you love so much?
I love the challenge of learning to play music and then enjoying the beautiful sound when a piece of music begins to come together. I also like puzzles, and view mastering the note reading, mastering the rhythm and nuances within a piece of music much like solving a puzzle.

For those who are settled in life, enjoying the golden years, what would you tell them as far as getting involved in music?
It depends on the involvement. For those who are involved as listeners, music can change a bad mood to a good mood. It can also be very calming in times of stress. For those involved as performers there are many studies that document how music keeps the brain active. I recently bought a new cello and find myself practicing more than I did as a child. The fun of mastering a piece of music is not as easy as it was when I was younger. It is however much more exciting to master the challenge. It’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument. Many seniors are putting this on their bucket lists and after some lessons they are enjoying making music independently or some are joining community orchestras.

Favorite composer or favorite song (or both)?
The Grand Rapids Symphony included Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E. minor last weekend. The third movement is my favorite movement of my favorite symphony.
Now that you’re retired, what do you do with your free time?
I call my retirement “phased retirement”. I continue to teach a class at Montcalm Community College. I direct The Rockford Community Orchestra. I love to get musical friends together and sometimes we even “put on a show” for a church or community group. I have taken classes at Aquinas College and at the University of Coastal Carolina through their life-long learners program. I am on the board of The Greenville Area Community Foundation. I love having time to spend with my nine grandchildren. I find keeping busy is the secret, for me, of staying happy.

In all the years that you have been involved in music and teaching music, what have you, yourself, learned the most?
I have learned that music adds a dimension to life that is very hard to explain. You understand this dimension when you enjoy music as a listener or performer. My mother passed away two years ago. She was an alzheimer’s patient. Music was the one thing she identified with and remembered up until the day she passed away. She knew every verse to every hymn and could hum tunes to music she learned throughout her life. I have learned that my relationship with music gives me peace, makes me smile, challenges me to think and will always be with me like a faithful best friend.

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