A ten-year project meant to reach new audiences, educate young listeners, and engage musicians of every age is now coming to final fruition for Philadelphia Orchestra members. The core of the project, Music from the Inside Out, a documentary film completed in 2004, has seen many milestones. It was released nationally in arthouse theaters in 2005, seen on PBS nationally in May 2006, and released by New Video as a DVD in 2007.
The project has now reached its final mission by being published as a textbook (by Daniel Anker, Carol Ponder, and Donna Santman, preface by Eric Booth, published by Alfred Publishing Company) with an accompanying “teacher’s guide” DVD. A group of very innovative educators led by Eric Booth conceived of the text for grades 5–12. Moments from the film (and some moments that never made the film) are viewed by the classroom as a send-off for various units of study and discovery. Some of these many lessons include: discovering one’s musical personality, creating an individual musical timeline, explorations of composition, and developing listening strategies by creating musical listening journals and listening discussion groups.
The inception of this entire project dates back to the orchestra’s strike in 1996. The resolution of that strike empowered musicians and board members to create new educational electronic media projects. What was first meant to be a television series became a movie to explore some basic questions: What is music? How is music made? Why does it exist? What are the human stories behind music-making? The resulting film was not at all a Philadelphia Orchestra story, but a music/musician story, going deep into the exploration of motives and aspirations we all share as music makers. The discussions and the interviews of musicians that were filmed touch upon universal stories and themes about how we came to be musicians, how music affects us, and how our music-making relates to every day life. This film is a snapshot view of our musical lineage, without regard to the name of any particular city, person, instrument, or orchestra history.
Award-winning producer/director Daniel Anker and his company, Anker Productions, filmed Philadelphia Orchestra musicians over a period of years on three continents. Over five hundred hours of footage were molded into a ninety-minute film. Our gratitude for the editing prowess and perseverance of Anker and his company is profound. One member of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s artistic committee commented on an early screening, “I am glad there was so much music-making that was allowed to be heard and seen.” The new textbook/teacher’s guide with its accompanying hour-long DVD is their culmination as well. The film’s themes and message— including that music will always be an expression in sound that performers and listeners alike can equally and deeply experience—have an audience far beyond that for the film’s release. The curriculum incorporates many writing activities and extensively utilizes principles of literacy-based learning. It was piloted over a three-year period in New York and Nashville schools. The text and DVD represent a fresh new approach to teaching music.
Philadelphia Orchestra musicians learned some important lessons from this project. Some of these include:
- Get real support and team involvement of your orchestra administration/management. We wasted many months by struggling to get all the constituents of the organization “on board.”
- Try to involve as many of the orchestra members as possible in any project, and share the wealth of the organization. We tried to involve lots of orchestra members but still had to deal with disappointments in the editing process. We had to discover that the greater purpose of the project—the universal message of the film—was more important than who got on camera.
- Trust your colleagues and the experts. Once a filmmaker was chosen, many moments of trust were tested. At some point we had to let go and realize that the result could not be controlled.
In this project, the positives far, far outweigh the negatives. We created a growing tool for use in schools, conservatories, and music festivals, and that enhances the orchestra’s reputation. There is much new and renewed appreciation among orchestra members of each other’s comments and insights that were in the film. The project fostered cooperation, patience, and understanding among the musicians, even though there was disappointment that not every musician’s voice was heard in interviews.
Many patrons saw the film in the Philadelphia region, either at the theaters or on PBS, which helped the audience get closer to the orchestra and its members. After the strike, our public needed, and we created, a positive and moving view of music-making. A number of our new members even say that seeing the film enhanced their desire to audition here.
The film was recently released with subtitles in Japanese and Chinese, with a potential Korean translation as well. This coincided with a recent tour to Asia. Next year during tours to Europe, a European release in German, Spanish, and French is planned.
A huge thanks is due to all the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who allowed a camera to follow them around, backstage and on tour, for four years. Their patience and good will were tested, and the orchestra passed with flying colors.
Please visit the film’s website at either www.mftio.com or www.musicfromtheinsideout.com. The DVD and text can be ordered from that site or from major booksellers and video stores, including Emerging Pictures (emergingpictures.com), Amazon and NetFlix.
Don Liuzzi has been Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal timpani for 19 years. He also played for seven years in the percussion section of the Pittsburgh Symphony. As the film’s coordinating producer, Don acted as the link between the musicians and the filmmaker.