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Rita Bucca - In the Spotlight

February 01, 2013

A Monthly Series of Donor and Patron Profiles

Drexel University senior Rita Bucca loves all kinds of music. Taking Back Sunday, an indie rock band from New York, pop-rock sensation Panic at the Disco, and Philadelphia-based punk band Valencia are among her favorites. Also at the top of her list? Vivaldi, Bach, violinist Joshua Bell, and The Philadelphia Orchestra.

When the Kimmel Center opened, Rita was just 10 years old, attending the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School and just learning to play the violin. “The first time I heard the Orchestra I was in awe … it was amazing.” Rita continued her violin studies throughout high school, and by the time she entered college, she was hungry for another musical outlet. That’s when she came across eZseatU—an Orchestra discount program for college students—and couldn’t believe her luck. “I remember thinking this sounded like an awesome program.” She signed up immediately, and was shocked to find she wasn’t the only student interested. Far from it. “I remember seeing 50-60 people my own age there, and not believing there were so many of us!”

Now, months away from graduating, Rita has joined yet another program offering special discounts and events—this one dubbed Young Friends, for those ages 35 and under. “I love that even when I’m no longer in college, I will be able to meet people my age who have the same interests,” says Rita.

She tells a story about a partner at the accounting firm where she will begin work this July, who recently spoke about attending the Orchestra’s Opening Night Concert and Gala. Her eyes light up as she remembers thinking, “Wow, that could be me next year. It would be so cool to have a chance to give back to the Orchestra that has given so much to me.”

Rita Bucca is Philadelphia born-and-bred. The older of two siblings, she and her brother grew up with music in their veins—their father is a longtime fan of classical music and their mother played violin as a child. But even so, the affinity for music didn’t take right away for the Bucca children. Rita chuckles, “My dad was really disappointed when we weren’t into it as much as kids. But once I started going to a performing arts school, I got into it much more.”

After dipping her toe into the musical waters with a stint at the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, Rita decided it was time to take her violin studies to the next level, opting to forgo traditional school and instead, attend the Girard Academic Music Program (also in South Philadelphia) for ninth through twelfth grade. This rigorous musical program requires each student to take music appreciation, music history, and individual music lessons in addition to traditional core high school curriculum. Rita remembers, “Our teachers started taking us to one or two concerts at the Kimmel Center every few months. We would get student tickets and come as a class to the weeknight shows.” It was here that she began to see much more of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and learned the importance of exposing young people to the arts.

As a result of her experiences, Rita is what some might call a champion of keeping music in the schools. “Music programs in public schools aren’t as common anymore because of budget cuts, but I’ve seen how important it is for kids my age in Philadelphia to have activities like music to get involved with, so they’re not getting caught up in the wrong things. I saw this first-hand with my own classmates. Instead of just hanging out with the neighborhood kids, they had music to turn to, which gave them something more hopeful for their future.” Rita still keeps in touch with some of these classmates and mentioned that a few of them have gone on to pursue a professional career in music. So does she ever aspire to play on a professional level? “I’ve never been a competitive person or looked at it as something to go into as a career,” she explains. “Playing violin for me is more about a passion and enjoyment.” She goes on to describe how it has also helped her enjoy the Orchestra more. “I understand the music better, the difficulty, how many years of practice it takes to get to that level. It’s incredible.”

Rita uses similar words when describing her first impressions of Yannick. “When I first saw him conduct, I remember thinking he brought so much energy to the stage—so much that you could just feel it.” She believes that having a younger conductor like Yannick does a lot to encourage more people her age to attend concerts. “When you look at the Orchestra, and see that there are younger people involved—not just in the audience but a younger conductor, younger players closer to our age—I think it changes the way people perceive classical music. It’s exciting.”

She experienced this same excitement after her first eZseatU concert, when famed violinist Joshua Bell (one of her classical music idols) sat barely a stone’s throw away from her. Rita remembers feeling star struck: “He was in the lobby signing CDs after the concert. Getting to watch someone like that perform on stage, and then seeing him sit five feet away from you is an experience you don’t forget anytime soon.”

When asked what she would tell friends and acquaintances who haven’t been to an Orchestra concert, her response is refreshingly simple. “It’s important when you’re listening to music to realize even if there aren’t lyrics, the music is still telling a story and can take you through different emotions. If you can hear that, I think you will find it much more meaningful.” She adds with a laugh, “Even Bugs Bunny uses classical music to tell a story—you just don’t realize it because you’re watching a cartoon.”

Rita has big plans for the future. Beyond her new job, she has aspirations of working abroad for “at least a year or two at some point.” But no matter where her travels take her, she is adamant about setting down permanent roots in Philadelphia. To her, of course, that means “more Philadelphia Orchestra concerts!” 

One of these days, she is also hoping those big plans involve meeting Joshua Bell or violinist Sarah Chang. She’s seen them both in concert multiple times so who knows? It may just be in the cards.