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Boise Philharmonic: Explore Music!

Boise Philharmonic Association, Inc.

The Boise Phil’s Explore Music! program provided an array of programs for students from across the Treasure Valley. For some, these programs introduced classical music and musical concepts. For others, they broadened understanding of and exposure to classical music and the musicians who make the music. Programs included Musicians In The Classroom for second graders, Children’s Concerts for third-fifth graders, Ensembles in the Schools for later elementary students, Conductors in the Schools for high school and college orchestras and bands, and our Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (BPYO) for high school musicians. An additional event included a presentation for elementary schools at the Egyptian Theater showing historic silent films set to a live organ accompaniment. Our educational programs were conducted by the Boise Phil’s Music Director Eric Garcia, BPYO Director Jennifer Drake, and a group of core musicians who work throughout the season to bring our music out from the concert hall and into local schools. Our eight Children’s Concerts involved the entire 80+ member Boise Philharmonic Orchestra. They reached approximately 20,000 students from approximately 140 different schools from across the Treasure Valley and beyond. Together, our Explore Music! programs are a key component of fulfilling our overall mission.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do we discern the musical creators’ and performers’ expressive intent?

Musicians In The Classroom (MITC) introduced musical concepts to 2ndgrade students, asking them to create a narrative based on the response they had to the music they heard.

Children’s Concerts featured Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.” Garcia broke down the piece into sections and explained the plot for each. Breaks between allowed the orchestra to perform the corresponding musical passages.  Students were encouraged to use their imaginations, listening for plot details of action and emotion.  Importantly, students were able to listen with great attentiveness to Stravinsky’s explicit depiction of the plot.  Music history, active listening, and concentration were goals of the program design.

Conductor in the Schools brought Music Director Garcia and BPYO Director Jennifer Drake to high school and college music programs, helping inform the musicians of advanced performing techniques.

Boise Phil Youth Orchestra (BPYO) rehearsed weekly and performed three concerts of full orchestral works. Members were mentored by Boise Phil professional musicians, and had conductor sessions with Garcia throughout the year. Senior members performed with the full Boise Phil Orchestra at a Spring subscription concert.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

MITC: “I love the music you did. It was amazing. You are a great player. I like the story we made up. I like the tuba too,” “I love how you were expressive.”

Children’s Concerts, Stravinsky’s “Firebird”:  How do you know when to play at the right time? How do you keep trying and don’t give up? How tired do you get after a big performance? How do you make it sound so magical? I was surprised that the prince captured the firebird. I liked it when the firebird went free. It made me feel like I was walking in an enchanted forest.

Conductor in Schools: 44 separate visits to area schools by either Music Director Eric Garcia, BPYO Director Jen Drake, or one of our Ensembles, reached approximately 5,000 students. Conductors marveled at the students’ ability to improve upon their performances over merely a single rehearsal.  Some schools were visited multiple times. The ability to convey performing standards and artistic techniques for presentation became more acute with each recurring visit.

BPYO: “With the experience of BPYO I see a lot of different personalities and skill sets being brought to the rehearsal hall. But then we come together and collaborate so well. There is a sense a fulfillment and ease at every concert. Everyone gains performance skills and gains from the social interactions. You take skills from BPYO and bring them into your daily life, which is why BPYO is the perfect program for becoming a well-rounded human being.”

Impact

MITC – Students always have interesting, creative ideas. We develop a story line around a multi-section piece of music, one section at a time. While there are certain themes that students’ ideas tend to follow, the range of specifics they include astounds me. I perform the opening section of “Three Miniatures” by Plog; the music starts fast, bouncy, and moves quickly between high and low notes. Students often feel the music evokes scenes of pursuit, but their interpretations range from being chased by zombies to being in the middle of a robbery car chase! – Adam Snider, Principal Tuba

Children’s Concerts – Perhaps the biggest gain we made this season was to introduce Live Streaming for our Children’s Concerts. We collaborated with Northwest Nazarene University to stream one concert, allowing us to reach schools that could not afford or were too far to attend live concerts.

BPYO – One of my favorite aspects of working with the BPYO was hearing their immense progress throughout a single rehearsal.  They were rehearsing a very intricate symphony by Prokofiev.  I asked them to listen attentively to the other sections of the orchestra.  This manner of listening allows musicians to hear that their part is vital to the successful execution of other musicians’ parts.  This is one of the essential skills that musicians must cultivate throughout their lives. …it encourages the musician always to be aware of how they can aid the actions and success of others. – Eric Garcia, Music Director

Reflection

Overall we feel that our programs provide a wonderful service introducing and perpetuating an appreciation for classical music in the children of our community. For the season ahead, we look forward to building upon the innovations of last season with a larger campaign to promote the live-streamed Children’s concerts to a greater number of online audiences. We also look forward to launching a second tier BPYO – a “junior varsity” level of musicians to support emerging players.

The creativity that our students display in their interactions with our musicians and conductors shows that even a single visit can have immediate impact and spark the beginning of a journey with music in their lives. Studies show how studying music impacts other areas of students’ lives in positive ways (“High School Students Do Better In Science, Math And English If They Also Take Music Lessons,” Eva Amsen, Forbes, June 25, 2019; “Study finds ensemble music programs positively affectstudents’ character, competence,” Jessica Drouet, Florida International University News, February 4, 2019) We believe that we are on the right track as to how we structure our programs to make positive touch points along the course of students’ lives from elementary into junior high, high school and beyond.

We felt that our due-diligence and organizational oversight of the educational programs needed improvement. As a result, we revamped our Operations Manager position and folded Education under his purview. We believe this new staffing arrangement will be more successful moving forward. Overall, we feel confident from our informal and formal feedback from staff, participants, parents, and educators that our programs are having a very positive impact.

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