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Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

Boise Philharmonic Association

1. In lieu of in-person programs, the Phil made short instructional videos for student musicians, featuring the Phil’s professional musicians. Staff and a production crew produced and distributed the videos free to music educators across Idaho to support their online teaching. Videos include:
17 — Meet the Instruments
4 — Meet the Ensembles (string, wind, brass, percussion)
1 — 10 from Jen video of Youth Orchestra Director Jen Drake
4 — Bow Technique

2. Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra launched a 2nd orchestra doubling the program to 185 students. Adaptations were made so that they could record and practice together online. They received personalized instruction from our professional musicians and music directors. They took part in a live studio recording at AudioLab — their first recording session. Several performed in ensembles in public spaces or in online chamber performances. They all performed in outdoor concerts in the spring — the culmination of their hard work throughout the year.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

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

Even though the Educator Resource Videos, created in response to the pandemic, weren’t in its original plans, they are a wonderful addition to the Phil’s educational resources for students. They provide the youngest emerging musicians with a fun and informative way to learn about the instruments available to play in their elementary school band or orchestra program. For more experienced musicians, the ensemble, bow technique, and 10 from Jen videos give added training, tips, and techniques to advance their musicianship. The free videos have extended the Phil’s reach to new areas of Idaho, allowing us to introduce our programs to teachers beyond the Treasure Valley.

Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra began their school year online, practicing online in small groups, often with their Boise Phil musician mentor. They excelled artistically testing their limits as young musicians with repertoire written for small ensembles, rather than full orchestra, which is much more challenging to perform. The December recording sessions at AudioLab and outdoor spring public concerts were the culmination of a months of adaptation and perseverance, for which they should be very proud.

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

Responding: Anchor Standard 8

Dvorak’s Quintet op. 77 in quintet stands out for me. I imagine he was trying to convey a sense of liveliness by expressing a multiple emotions ranging from joy to frustration. In performing it, I tried to feel those emotions and bring the same intensity with every stroke of the bow, while trying to stay connected with my quintet and incite them to do the same.

I gained a new perspective and appreciation for what it takes of our leaders to organize rehearsals and concerts. The added effort to work with all of us remotely, at times individually, was eye-opening. They worked tirelessly to come up with work-arounds for the challenges we faced. We’re fortunate their dedication made it possible for us to thrive in what we love doing and is a big part of our lives.

A hard challenge was having the drive to play. Playing orchestral music doesn’t have the same joy and meaning if I can’t play it with a group to an audience. Without a full orchestra or a live audience came a lack of desire to play. I tried to foster enthusiasm by having occasional in person rehearsals with a small group & I began to see a change in my attitude. When BPYO began to have in person rehearsals, I found my drive to play again.

Impact

Boise Phil has received many emails and calls of thanks for its Educator Resource videos. Music teachers have found them to be very needed and useful, especially this year.

Many have found BPYO to be extremely needed in a year when the pandemic prevented musicians and music programs to continue in a normal way. BPYO has been a consistent communal experience that the young musicians have been able to rely on. One email about BPYO says it best. It came from a retired professor of oboe at BSU. “Thanks to you and the whole organization for the outstanding service you gave the music community this past year in creating ways for the high school instrumentalists to survive the pandemic. It was obvious in my own studio that without BPYO’s Herculean efforts, there would have been almost nothing for these young players to feel inspired to do musically. You and your team have my admiration and gratitude. I hope very much that the three I teach who are not graduating will all audition. (One) has survived as an oboist only because of BPYO this past year.”

Reflection

Boise Phil learned that disseminating a new program takes significant time, patience, and staff resources. It takes multiple methods of outreach and follow up to target audience. Now that that the videos have been available for several months and more widely utilized, the Phil feels confident that the new digital materials will continue to be seen by more students as more educators learn of this free opportunity. To ensure its successful continuation, it created a new staff position to support the Phil’s ongoing educational efforts.

The season built deeper connections across the organization. BPYO afforded students the opportunity to deeply engage with each other and the Philharmonic in a new way. Students played in small ensembles, coached by Philharmonic members. Students recorded their small groups at AudioLab, and participated in final outdoor performances.

The Phil made productive use of technology and continued learning when the pandemic shut down all in-person programming. Using the program Upbeat Music App, students received coaching sessions online and made educational reference recordings as they prepared to meet in-person. Through new technologies, limited groups of students played and heard each other in real time. Through new technologies, the two BPYO orchestras were able to persevere through the season until in-person rehearsals and performances could be added to the schedule.

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