By Hannah Moody
“I’m kind of upset that this is over, so I’m going to keep talking and make it go longer,” TMC senior Taylor Arnone said as he looked out over the crowd at the end of his benefit concert.
The evening of Feb. 21 was a culmination of four years of hard work for Arnone. Though the event was originally intended to be his senior recital, Arnone decided to put his communication emphasis to use and hold a benefit concert with the proceeds to go towards the Chorale tour of the Midwest in May.
Last summer, the Master’s College Chorale went on tour in Israel, with a per-person price tag of approximately $3,000.
“I saw how difficult that was,” Arnone said.
This summer, the Chorale is touring for two-and-a-half weeks around the Midwest. Though the cost is significantly less than a tour in Israel, Arnone wanted to help. He also wanted to be able to conduct, and the idea to put together a “little” benefit concert was born.
As a music major studying cello, Arnone was required to hold a half-hour cello recital in partial fulfillment of his bachelor’s degree. But his true love is conducting, something he practiced in front of the mirror at 7 years old. In junior high, Arnone was introduced to conducting in a more formal way.
“It was the first time I really sat under a good orchestra, and the conductor of the junior high was so good,” Arnone said. “I just love it. Your instrument is the entire orchestra. The conductor's job is to take the piece and figure out—not what he feels—but what the composer is trying to say. You’re making his creation come to life and I love it. You’re responsible for the emotion and the sound.”
Armed with his passion, Arnone took his idea to TMC’s Dr. Paul Plew, who allowed it on the grounds that Arnone’s emphasis is communication and this concert would be a perfect opportunity to blend his two fields.
With everything he needed to start, Arnone took a look at the finances and the work to be done and wondered how it was all going to happen. He paid for the expenses out of pocket and with the help of private donations. God continued to provide. There where days when he had no orchestra, and the day after he had the entire brass section.
The next hurdle after finances and musicians was deciding what to play.
“I asked the students: for me, for my concert, what do we want to play? What do we like to play?” he said.
Guided by the principle of celebrating music and producing an event that people on the campus would want to hear, Arnone blended the familiar with the unexpected.
He chose Be Our Guest from Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for an element of nostalgia. Fellow students Catherine Hardy, Sarah Owinyo and Michaela Johnson performed a rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
One of the crowning achievements was Arnone’s original composition, The American Medley, which he wrote alongside TMC alumna Natalie Olender. The concert marked the composition's debut. It was also the first time Arnone had heard it played with a live orchestra—almost a full year after he and Olender had started writing the piece. It almost didn’t get played, due to leaving it last in the rehearsal line-up, just three hours prior to the concert.
While the average senior recital draws 30 people, Arnone was aiming for double that. His family came, his friends came, the music faculty came and old high school friends came. All told, Arnone brought in 180 attendees.
His benefit concert raised $1,800 for the chorale tour, with a third of the money being from donations after the fact.
“I hope you all have enjoyed everything, ” Arnone said, and finished his concert.
It was obvious that they did.