Squeaking tennis shoes and basketballs hitting the court -- the typical clamor expected from the gym at the Juvenile Services Division but Friday, Nov. 14 there was a distinctively different tune. The baroque and rich sounds of a cello playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s, “Prelude in D major.” The man behind the instrument: internationally acclaimed cellist Alban Gerhardt.
“Good afternoon. I’m very happy to be here,” explained Gerhardt before a large group of attentive and inquisitive young people After an entrancing musical introduction, the questions began flowing: How long does it take to play? How long have you been playing? What made you want to play this instrument? How old is your cello?
“310-years-old. It’s from Italy. Can you guess what the bow is made of?” he asks. “The hair of a horse.”
The award-winning, world-class artist has played countless performances at concert halls throughout the world but Gerhardt specifically reached out to the Multnomah County’s Juvenile Services Division to perform a free concert. It’s part of his mission to bring music to traditionally inaccessible settings.
“I want to inspire others,” Gerhardt said. “Learning an instrument requires patience and self-discipline. I think it’s important to encourage young people to pick something up like that. Anything: singing, painting, artistic outlets. I like sports too.”
Gerhardt is one of many guests brought in by the Juvenile Services Division (JSD) Cultural Diversity Committee. Previous performances include Rapper/Singer/Songwriter Saul Paul and Rock Musician Chadwick Stokes. While Gerhardt’s musical genre was notably different from the others, staff noted more questions were asked by the young audience members than guest performers in the past.
“We try to bring people from all different communities... and work to expose them to things that can help them make positive choices or choose a positive path,” said Cultural Diversity Committee co-chair Tami Cox.
There was applause and whistles after performances of Beethoven, Mozart and an impromptu version of Star Wars on the cello. Gerhardt ended his performance with a happy birthday serenade to one of the young people at the facility.