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'Without Music, Life Would Be a Mistake'

May 21, 2009 - Phyllis Sigal
I could just picture Rachael Worby, proud as could be, had she been there to listen to the three Rachael Worby Scholars play at a reception following the Wheeling Symphony's season finale on Friday. I'm sure she would have been fighting back tears.

Dr. Gail Looney, symphony librarian, orchestra member and chair of the Rachael Worby Scholarship Committee since its inception, introduced the three musicians to the audience during the intermission of the concert.

Later that night, they got a chance to show their talents at the Bonnie Dwaine Bed & Breakfast in Glen Dale, which graciously hosts the after-concert gatherings.

When Rachael left, after serving as music conductor of the WSO from 1986 to 2003, a fund was named in her honor that offers $1,000 scholarships to deserving high school seniors who continue their education in the music field.

This year, the three winners are: 

• William C. De Lelles, Steubenville High School, percussion, piano, electric bass and voice. He will attend Cleveland Institute of Music to study percussion performance. His teacher is a WSO member, Eliseo Rael.

• Brett Weisenborn, Wheeling Central Catholic High School, classical guitar. He will attend the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University to study classical guitar performance and sound recording.

• Alan Cline, Brooke High School, voice, tuba, piano and string bass. He will attend West Liberty University to study music education, composition and conducting.

They are all excellent musicians. It was so obvious how proud their parents were; I enjoyed watching their relatives watch the children as much as I enjoyed listening to the winners play.

William played a couple of pieces on the marimba. It was like magic watching the mallets bouncing effortlessly off the instrument. Brett played classical guitar, and Alan sang. They all proved they were deserving recipients.

One of Rachael's key interests was education. She loved to teach children about music, and encourage their skills.

I once got a chance to watch her in New York City around 21 years ago as she conducted a young people's concert. She was in her glory. I think she's happiest when she's working with music and children.

She served as music director and conductor of Young People's Concerts at Carnegie Hall from 1984-1996, and was assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Youth Concerts from 1984-1987.

She followed in the footsteps of her inspiration, Leonard Bernstein, who conducted his first Young People's Concert with the New York Philharmonic in 1958.

Rachael still is involved with the musical education of children. The finale to the summer season of the Pasadana Pops, where she is music director, is called "Genius Loves Company." The theme celebrates the "mutual admiration between composers and artists." And concertgoers also can see "our student 'Side by Side' players perform side-by-side with the musicians of the POPS," according to a season brochure I just received in the mail.

I know the face I picture in my imagination of Rachael at the reception last week will be the same face the audience will see when those students play in Pasadena. She'll be choking back tears, clutching her fists to her heart, full of pride.

Worby Scholarship winner William De Lelles writes in his essay he submitted to be considered for the award: "Without music, life would be a mistake. Dreaming of life without music is unimaginable. It is because of ... this that my music career will one day do for someone what music has done for me."

I think Rachael would agree.  


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William, Brett, Alan


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