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Educational Outreach

Brandon Patrick George and Mahan Esfahani with young people

Outreach event at the Montessori School of San Antonio at Rogers Ranch with flutist Brandon Patrick George and harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani on November 13, 2023

Early in the morning of Monday November 13, 2023, local harpsichord builder Gerald Self delivered one of his gorgeous Baroque instruments to The Montessori School of San Antonio at Rogers Ranch, where he taught for many years. Revisiting the grounds on a delivery mission of the highest care, Gerald lifted the harpsichord from his car onto a dolly, rolled the instrument into the school’s spacious gym, and found a central place for it on an elevated stage. Once flutist Brandon Patrick George and harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani arrived to warm up for the 9:00 AM interactive performance, Gerald had just finished tuning the instrument and everything was ready to go. Montessori School music teacher Rebecca Morgan was an impeccable liaison, making sure the event ran smoothly from start to the finish. With all logistical concerns taken care of, the musicians could get down to business.

With these outreach events, and especially for young children, it’s usually a good idea to start right away with some music. Set the tone immediately with what we’re all here to experience— and with a short, beautiful excerpt from one of the Sonatas for Flute and Harpsichord by Bach, that’s exactly what Brandon and Mahan did. The beautiful counterpoint, Brandon’s elegant tone, and the harpsichord’s unique timbre immediately gripped the 175 students, who applauded enthusiastically when they finished playing.

Brandon then took the opportunity to introduce his unique, golden flute and all of its capabilities. After demonstrating a couple scales on the instrument, he asked the students if they knew how he was making the sound, and how his fingers affected the sound he was making. To my surprise, the students were quite knowledgeable already. One student described how the air travels through the instrument and that the sound was created from vibration. Encouraged, Brandon demonstrated further, explaining the entire range of the instrument and how he was able to control the contour.

Next, it was Mahan’s chance to give the young students a better understanding of his unusual instrument, the harpsichord. Reaching inside the harpsichord and removing one of the jacks that controls how the instrument’s string is plucked, Mahan lifted it up clearly to the crowd and explained the mechanism. “You see, the harpsichord is actually a string instrument!” he expressed, demonstrating the process from finger to key to jack to the plectra plucking, resulting in the special timbre of the harpsichord. The students looked on with piqued curiosity and many raised their hands:

“How does it do that??”
“Can you control the sound?”
“Is the harpsichord also made of gold?”

After describing some of the harpsichord’s materials and demonstrating a variety of sounds, the duo played another exciting excerpt from the Flute and Harpsichord Sonatas of Bach, this time an up-tempo dance movement that exhilarated the crowd. After another big round of applause, the Q&A turned more toward the musician’s personal connections to music and their instruments. Both Brandon and Mahan mentioned church as an early musical influence (for Mahan, the organ left a particularly strong impression), but Brandon’s path was less usual than most. He desperately wanted to be play the flute in band at his school, but oddly enough could not make a sound out of the instrument on his first try-out. Working diligently for an entire year, he eventually overcame that hurdle and was finally invited to join. If not for his young desire and determination to overcome this discouraging challenge, he may very well have never become the flutist he is today. Mahan, on the other hand, played the tuba in band. “I guess I went from one of the biggest, loudest instruments to something rather light and elegant!” 

Before the two musicians wrapped things up with a vibrant gigue, Mahan explained that those who pursue music for their career do it because they truly want to have music in their lives. For the two of them, they realized their musical interests and decided early on that whatever happens, they would make sure that music played a role in their lives, one way or another. That humble yet determined goal has helped lead them down a path of musical success. Their eyes glued to the pair as they gave their final performance, the young but extremely well-behaved students soaked up as much as they could from this world-class duo, and at 9:45 AM the event concluded with a joyful, appreciative applause, followed by a rush to the stage for even more up-close-and-personal interactions.

Submitted by Daniel Anastasio