Though reading books and writing papers is intellectually enriching and mostly enjoyable, as a college student it is always lovely to take a break and head into Philadelphia for an evening. The busy streets and towering buildings are a reminder that the world goes on, even as we are busy with schoolwork. It is all too easy to become wrapped up in the details of college life—flipping through the crowded pages of a homework planner, eating in the dining hall before rushing off to the next class, finding ways to balance school, work, and sleep. Although these routine tasks are necessary and even build character, sometimes we forget that larger realities surround us. Truly important things are left out of our daily lives, such as the practice of sitting quietly in the presence of true beauty. An evening at the Kimmel Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra is a wonderful way to reawaken our own inner being, reminding us of all that is good, true, and beautiful.
Eastern University is conveniently located close to Center City Philadelphia—only half an hour train ride from campus to the City and all of its wonders, including the Orchestra. The New York Times recently described the Philadelphia Orchestra “as one of America’s best ensembles, known even to people who do not listen to much classical music…” And, thanks to the Benoliel Arts and Culture Series at the Templeton Honors College, an evening with the Philadelphia Orchestra is made a reality. Every year, Templeton students choose an arts event to attend in Philadelphia, whether it is the Orchestra, a string quartet, the ballet, or a play.
Recently, a group of Templeton students had the chance to attend two performances of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I attended a concert of Russian favorites, including: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and 1812 Overture. The famous pianist Denis Kozhukhin joined the Orchestra for the Concerto, which made the piece as entertaining to watch as it was to listen to, as his movements were so animated and skillful. At times it seemed the piano would nearly break in half, while at other moments his fingers seemed to barely brush the keys. In addition, the guest conductor, Stéphane Denève, jumped into the air at particularly dramatic times in the piece. It was a joy to experience world-class musicians perform, knowing they had fully dedicated themselves to their art. The music seemed to float effortlessly from the musician through their instrument and out into the concert hall, floating across the audience. One of the highlights of the performance was that moment between silence and music, where the last note drifts off but the audience is at rapt attention, savoring and breathing in the final notes, and no one would dare so much as sneeze.
It is one thing to discuss goodness, truth, and beauty in the classroom, perhaps with a professor’s diagram scrawled on the blackboard to help students understand a certain concept. It is another thing entirely to sit in a vast concert hall, eyes closed, just listening. Perhaps you are sitting next to the same friend with whom you disagreed on a philosophical matter during class, now comforted by the knowledge that you can agree on Tchaikovsky. And, knowing that generations before you have heard the same piece performed by another ensemble at a different time and in a different place. Yet, they too knew they were in the presence of something truly beautiful.
Emma Buchanan (’18) is a Templeton scholar majoring in Anthropology and Environmental Science.