SALT LAKE CITY — During a recent orchestra rehearsal, Thierry Fischer pleaded with his musicians. The Utah Symphony’s music director wanted the music to be light and fast, so he asked his players to imagine they were little birds, furiously flapping their wings.
The musicians were performing Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” so the analogy wasn’t actually all that odd. What was odd was the fact that this wasn’t a Utah Symphony rehearsal. Fischer was talking to Cottonwood High School students. And although they were significantly younger than the musicians he was used to working with, the conductor didn’t lower his expectations. He demanded the best from them.
“They are here to learn, they are here to discover, they are here to wonder and I am aware (that any) analogy or metaphor I can give is going to be strong in their minds,” Fischer said. “If they can’t do it, I’m even more motivated to give them another idea to try to do it better.”
The 90 young musicians in rehearsal were riveted. When they weren’t playing and taking Fischer’s advice to heart, they were silent, absorbing every word the Swiss conductor had for them.
“All the focus was on him,” said Aubrey Henrie, a 16-year-old viola player and sophomore at Cottonwood High School. “I’ve never seen a group do that before.”
Now, after three meetings and rehearsals with Fischer, the big moment has arrived for these students. On May 20 at 10 a.m., Aubrey and her fellow Cottonwood High School musicians will perform a suite from “Firebird” under Fischer’s baton. Thanks to Facebook Live, students from four other high schools — Gunnison Valley High School in Sanpete County, Tooele High School, Grantsville High School and Granger High School — will also join in and closely follow Fischer’s lead.