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GU Symphony director turning kids on to music

Fri., April 10, 2009, 8:56 a.m.

The orchestra at Park Middle School in Kennewick began playing the song Deep Sea Fandango, but something wasn’t right.

The opening notes are meant to sound like the theme from Jaws, but they weren’t quite menacing enough. So Kevin Hekmatpanah grabbed a cello from a boy in the front row.

“You’ve got to use the bow a lot on the crescendo,” he said, moving it back and forth across the strings. The deep, pulsing sound filled the room.

“Wow,” the boy said.

Hekmatpanah has been getting that reaction a lot. The associate professor of music at Gonzaga University is putting on orchestra clinics at Kennewick and Richland schools this week.

He helps with whatever the music teachers want – from working with small groups of students on their bowing to giving pointers to orchestras on a particular song.

“(Whether) it’s a kid who’s passionate about music, who thinks it’s just something fun to do or who is bored to tears – my goal is to turn them all on to it,” he said.

Hekmatpanah also is music director of the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra.

Before his session at Park Middle School, he worked with the orchestra across town at Southridge High School. They wanted help with the song Italian Symphony.

“It’s just nice having a professional conductor (provide input),” said Aaron Clark, 18, a senior.

“He really breaks it down,” said fellow senior Josh Lindberg, 18.

A Kennewick School District parent, Colleen Freshley, arranged Hekmatpanah’s visit. She said his expertise energizes the students and gets them excited about playing.

Teri Glasford, the orchestra teacher at Park and several other Kennewick schools, agreed.

“I think it’s inspiring. An outside perspective is always good,” especially from someone as accomplished as Hekmatpanah, she said.

Along with his school visits, Hekmatpanah also planned to give a cello recital for the community Thursday night.

He said he hopes his visit helps students see “how great music can be.”

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