The Third Element

A Sarasota Orchestra concert opens a young musician’s eyes to a vital component of her art.

By staff April 24, 2014

By Cheeko Matsusaka

Before coming to Sarasota, I was a free-lance musician. As such, I had developed a narrow view of my professional work. Everything was about the music and at what level I was performing. What mattered was tradition and quality. Everything else was a distraction or someone else’s area of concern. When I made the move to the Sarasota Orchestra, my narrow focus still remained, until one concert opened my world to a vital—and exceptional—element of performing and of Sarasota: the audience.

It happened during the Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights pops concert. In preparing film and live music projects like this, the music is stripped bare. It’s easy to lose connection with the music, as we are required to focus on just a single element: being in synch with the film. However, when the live music and the visuals were brought together with that exceptional third element of Sarasota, something wickedly chemical happened.

When the concert started, I couldn’t see the film, but I didn’t need to. I was hearing a master storyteller at work. There was laughter, then gasps and sad sighs, but there was also a visceral and electrical sense of togetherness—we were all a part of this story. There were no boundaries between the black-and-white film, the orchestra and the audience. For that one hour and 20 minutes, we were one.

The generosity, openness, and trust the audience demonstrated opened my eyes to the magical relationship between audience and performer. When the audience jumped to their feet at the end of the concert, I felt myself saying, “OK, I get it.” As a musician, I had devoted years to honing and perfecting my skills. Yet in the process, I had cut myself off from the source and my purpose. When the conductor tossed his white boutonniere to the cheering audience, I realized just how rich the experience became when I allowed that connection to happen.

Cheeko Matsusaka, a cellist with the Sarasota Orchestra since 2002, was a prize winner at the Fischoff national chamber music competition.  

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