Music is and always has been part of the very fabric of life for Laurel Talley. Her parents, both professional organists, wanted Laurel to get off to a musical start early in life and arranged for her to begin violin studies at age three.
Laurel was nine, when the family moved to Boise. She continued her music studies and eventually entered Boise High School where she became acquainted with a teacher who would help shape her life. That teacher was Wendy Hartman, conductor of the school’s orchestra, and she recognized Laurel’s gifts and helped her achieve her musical aspirations. Years later when Mrs. Hartman stepped into retirement, her former student, Laurel Talley, picked up the baton and assumed Hartman’s position. Though many performers also teach, few relish teaching music as much as Laurel does.
Laurel Conducting the Boise High School Orchestra
“Music,” says Laurel “is both an art form and an expression of the human experience. Music offers a special kind of community where one can be creative, expressive, vulnerable and joyous. The relationships that form through music making are often unique and long lasting.” Though she has a degree in violin performance, she feels performance and teaching are on an equal par. She paired her performance degree with another in Music Education while at Oberlin College then went on and obtained her Master’s degree in Music Education. After completing her formal education at Oberlin, she became the Suzuki Violin Coordinator at a performing arts school in Charlotte, North Carolina, a position she held for seven years. And then, back in Boise, Mrs. Hartman retired. Laurel knew she had a knack for motivating students, she also knew how to break music into manageable pieces and how to continue the strong orchestra tradition at Boise High. She sought and received the high school position. When she took the position in Boise, she put her creativity to work. Her students not only would learn to play an instrument well, they would step into a world of music that includes the entire range of classical music, and they would learn how the sounds of the instruments of one period differ from instruments of another. They would learn how musical thought and concepts change over time. They would look at contemporary composers and come to think outside the box about music and its capabilities.
In 2019, at the invitation of Maestro Robert Franz, the Boise High Chamber Orchestra, the high school’s varsity program, was given the rare opportunity to work side by side with professional musicians. The students became part of the Boise Baroque Orchestra working together and alongside principal string musicians for a performance that was a rousing success. During the course of the preparations, the students learned to use baroque bows loaned to them from the Orchestra itself. And what did the students have to say about their experience? They loved it! Student musician Ava Steckel put it well when, upon reflection, she shared,” This whole program has been such an incredible process for me! I absolutely loved learning more about the history of music, and to then have the chance to put it in practice with a baroque bow was just amazing, Having all the guest clinicians was awesome .”
Laurel and her students then successfully prepared for and won a performance spot at the Idaho Musical Educator’s All State Conference in February of 2020. Laurel loves performing with ‘her kids.’ Their music is a collaborative gift they give to each other and to the community at large.
Laurel With the Boise High School Orchestra
When COVID slowed the pace of professional things, Laurel turned her attention and considerable energy to something unrelated to music—mountain biking. A fun and thrilling hobby, Laurel reports, but her love will always be music making. Asked what she would advise a student who is considering a musical career, she said she would tell them: “If you wake up in the morning and you can think of nothing but music, you should go for it with your whole heart. It’s a hard road but worth it. If you have other ambitions and dreams, that’s ok too. The great thing about music is there is a spot in the rehearsal room and on the stage for everyone at all levels. Music is meant to be experienced and celebrated, not necessarily perfected.” Undoubtedly music will always have a large space in Laurel’s life. It is, and always has been, part of the very fiber that is Laurel Talley.