I recently performed a DanceArts production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with the Valdosta Symphony. As with most Nutcracker performances, the music was challenging, but very rewarding. Despite having performed the work several times, I’ve never achieved a sense of comfort with it. The awkward passages are still just as awkward as the first time I practiced it and every single rest must be carefully counted because not all of the entrances seem intuitive. Meanwhile, the audience seems to have a strong familiarity with the piece able to hum along with most of it. In all of this, with musicians focusing on the technique of performance and the audience passively listening because its too familiar, it is easy to overlook the greatness of the Nutcracker. It really is a masterwork where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is too frequently used as a soundbite for a Christmas commercial and nothing more. So, this Christmas take the time to listen to the Nutcracker in its entirety or, better yet, go see a full production. When you do, listen/watch/experience it as if you’ve never experienced it before. It’ll be time well spent.