A childhood love of music has blossomed into a symphony of dedication, beauty and emotion for violinist Emily Benjamin.
A Coeur d'Alene Symphony, to be exact.
"I loved going to symphonies as a child. It was awe-inspiring to me as a musician to see adults in the real world sharing their love of music at such a high level," Benjamin, of Post Falls, said Thursday. "I really looked up to the symphony members growing up and it's really exciting for me to share that same love of music with the entire community."
Benjamin learned to play the violin in the fourth grade, and passion for symphony grew as her talent advanced. Now, at 26, she is a three-year member of the Coeur d'Alene Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and has become the role model a new generation of musicians can look up to.
"The awesome thing about being a part of a symphony is you get to help create something so much greater than what any single person could create on their own," she said. "A lot of why I appreciate being a part of the CSO is that it helps me feel like part of a team working for the greater good of our community."
Sparking inspiration in young musicians as they embark on their musical journeys is a pillar of the CSO, a nonprofit, community orchestra that presently comprises 66 musician seats.
"If I lived here when I was a young musician in high school and junior high, it would have probably changed my direction in life had they had these programs when I was a kid,” said Ed Graves, an enthusiastic CSO volunteer and sound tech. "They want to provide an opportunity for young people who aren’t exposed to the fine arts ... They offer an influence to young people and an opportunity for young people to excel if they have interest in music, but they also give the older generations the opportunity to continue to enjoy what we all loved or were involved in when we were younger."
The CSO encourages local budding musicians in several ways, including its Melody Contest, which invites kiddos in elementary through sixth grade to submit an original tune that will be orchestrated into a one-minute composition and performed by the CSO during a concert.
"That's mind-blowing to me," Graves said. "Could you imagine what that does for an 11-year-old kid to hear their music performed by a symphony?"
The CSO extends beyond the local community when it hosts the annual Young Artists Competition, a contest that attracts young vocalists and musicians from across the country to showcase their chops with the symphony and earn some cash in the process. The 2018 Young Artists Competition performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 16, and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 17, in the Kroc Center in Coeur d'Alene.
As well as inspiring a love of music in children and young adults, the CSO brings high-quality performances to the community as a whole. Concerts usually are about $10-$20 per ticket, but several times during the year CSO members are out playing shows for free.
During Saturdays with the Symphony, which happen about five times a year, quartets and trios visit Kootenai Health and the Coeur d'Alene Public Library to share their talents with the public. Their annual Labor Day concert in Coeur d'Alene City Park is also an event community members can enjoy at no cost.
"The thing that astounds me is that we have an orchestra of this caliber in such a small, remote part of the world, that is willing to play consistently and be involved,” Graves said. "All the musicians are helping to set up the chairs, set up the risers. Everyone is involved. They’re not just showing up and everything’s ready. They’re the roadies, they’re the transportation, they’re the musicians. And they all take part in committees to help raise money to keep the orchestra going."
This summer, the CSO is celebrating its 40th anniversary of bringing classical and semi-classical music to the area. Several performances are on the horizon — the season finale concert in the Kroc Center is May 4, the Art on the Green performance is scheduled for Aug. 4 on the North Idaho College Campus, the Labor Day concert is Sept. 3, the 2018-19 season opener is Oct. 5 (during which the new artistic director will be introduced) and the Christmas concerts will be Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Plenty of good things are ahead for the CSO, which means good things for its community.
"Music is the universal language that can affect anyone from any walk of life," Benjamin said. "It's something that has a physical and emotional effect on our bodies, our lives. Music can move you to tears, it can make you laugh. It's a part of the essence of being human."
To learn more about upcoming programs and how to get involved, visit www.cdasymphony.org or call 208-765-3833.