By Daniel Buckwalter

Years ago, I found myself in a conversation with an elderly man. Somehow, he steered that conversation to his deceased wife. They had raised a family and welcomed grandchildren. It was a life well lived with many fond memories. She had died years earlier, and the more he spoke, the quieter his voice became and the more his eyes stared blankly at a distance.

Finally, he cracked a smile. “I have a hard time remembering her voice. It’s the damndest thing.”

I was reminded of that small story on Feb. 17 at the Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall, when guest violist Roberto Díaz ushered the Eugene Symphony Orchestra through Jennifer Higdon’s three-movement viola concerto.

In the first movement, Díaz led the symphony with a soft, throaty entrance that, for me, embodied the memories of long-ago events. The second and third movements, with their quicker tempos, relived the moments of life’s discovery, with all of its pains and smiles.

And it was a fitting entry to this segment of the “C3 Initiative” concerts by the symphony, with Francesco Lecce-Chong at the podium, that explore connection, creativity and community using various art mediums to augment symphonic music.

Making connections has always been uppermost in my mind, and I have always been partial to one-on-one connections. Creativity and community flow through those connections.

For creativity, there were four wonderful contemporary artistic displays from Oregon artists that were projected in the opening musical piece, Paul Hindemith’s four-movement Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes on Carl Maria von Weber.

I was fond of Anna Fidler’s colorful, almost childlike drawings in the second movement. It started with faint lines to the accompaniment of a flute soloist. The colors grew bolder as the rest of the orchestra rushed in.

That contrasted with Julia Oldham’s artistic entry in the fourth movement, an almost dystopian projection where cars, planes and large buildings — all of life — drown in rising waters, exemplified by multiple faucets that can’t be turned off. The only life was that of crabs, sharks and all matter of sea life.

It was not hard to absorb the lessons of ignoring global warming.

The community aspect came into play after intermission, when four members of #instaballet (two men and two women) took to the stage to dance to Gabriel Fauré’s elegant Pavane.

This was an interactive piece with four of the dance moves — trees, birds, sun and fun —crowd-sourced beforehand at the Hult Center Studio. The audience, from its seats, mimicked those poses at the correct time, and had fun doing it.

All of which led to the symphony’s signature piece, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

If Higdon’s three-movement viola concerto was a fitting entry in the C3 Series for its one-to-one connection, Beethoven’s symphony was the glorious exclamation mark for its muscular, poetic and outright majestic rhythms that capture our diverse, whirlwind society.

I hope we can take care of our society through connection, creativity and community. It is worth it to try.