Every February, friends with older children told us about the logistics of transporting and guarding so many instruments, about the Ann Arbor Public Schools orchestra alumni now attending U-M that they saw there, and, “Oh! The music!”

Since the mid-1980s, Orchestra Night has featured Ann Arbor Public Schools’ middle and high school symphony orchestras at the University of Michigan’s beautiful Hill Auditorium. Renowned internationally for its acoustics, Hill is a jewel of our town, and this year, as they have for over thirty years, Ann Arbor students from Clague, Tappan, Scarlett, Forsythe, Slauson, Skyline, Huron, and Pioneer have had the opportunity to perform in this space and learn from each other what is possible if they continue studying music.

Finally, it is our turn.

We drop my daughter and her cello off at the stage door to Hill and watch her walk in, dressed in white shirt, black pants, and her sister’s high heels, looking so small as she enters through the same door as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and many other famous musicians.

As we enter the warmth of the Auditorium, we are struck by the beauty of this space. We climb the stone steps and find seats in the front of the mezzanine section, right in the middle of everything. We admire the golden curve of the stage and the clean brass lines of the pipe organ. We note the CTN camera. We wave down at old friends that live on the other side of town, and we text other friends, “Where are you sitting?”

When Clague’s orchestra takes the stage with Ms. Alwin, it is not like the usual school concert in the cafeteria, accompanied by the creak of risers and folding chairs. The music and musicians are transformed by the space, each note lush and rich, the range soaring, the drama of the music reaching out to all of us and pulling us to the very edge of our velvet seats.

“This is a magical experience for not only the students but their families,” said Sandy Aldrich, president of the Huron Music Association. “Families who may never have imagined an opportunity to watch and listen to their children perform at such a prestigious venue. Equally important is the experience of listening to our highest-performing high school orchestra students, so that our middle schoolers can aspire and be inspired.”

After many years of Orchestra Nights, when my youngest child finally gets his turn on that stage, I am so impressed, not only by the incredible music, but also by how far our family has come since this young man playing tuba was a baby in the mezzanine playing Pokemon.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Orchestra Night is February 27, 7 p.m., at Hill Auditorium.