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Boise Philharmonic Youth Programs

Boise Philharmonic Association

This year, 34 local schools from 16 different districts in Treasure Valley adopted one or more programs from Boise Phil’s youth music education resource package. The Boise Phil Youth Orchestra had 151 high school students on its roster by the end of the 21-22 season.

Schools took advantage of the Phil’s in-person services including sending conductors to rehearse with local orchestras as well as an in-classroom curriculum called Sonic Boom. These in-person resources allowed students to closely engage with music with the help of their teachers and Boise Phil’s expert musicians.

The online portion of the education program provided additional pathways to musical discovery while opening up access to any school throughout the state of Idaho. These included an online video library introducing students to several ensembles and instruments of the orchestra and the culminating school concert, an orchestral program geared for younger audiences that was recorded and uploaded online.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

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

School Concerts: Anchor Standard #11
Musical content is performed through the lens of broader cultural topics such as science and geography. Children are shown how expressive qualities such as timbre, dynamic, and style convey interpretations of subjects that are already familiar to them.

Conductors in the Classroom: Anchor Standard #5
For the 6th through 12th graders who participate in these programs, they are shown more advanced concepts of music content to interpret. For students playing the music themselves, when visited by a Boise Phil Conductor, the interpretation becomes a realization as the conductors work with the musicians on their own repertoire to aid in the advancement of technical accuracy and expression.

Boise Phil Youth Orchestra (BPYO): Anchor Standards #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #10
Support personal interpretation of contrasting programs of music and explain how creators or performers apply the elements of music and expressive qualities, within genres, cultures, and historical periods to convey expressive intent. BPYO musicians learn advanced performance techniques and interpretation skills in order to convey expressive intent. They perform three concerts featuring advanced orchestral repertoire.

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

School Concerts: Anchor Standard #11
Boise Phil carefully selects the programs of its yearly school concerts to not only appeal to younger students in primary schools, but also to enrich their understanding of music’s place in the world. For instance, this year’s concert included excerpts from Holst’s “The Planets,” which is music inspired by the solar system, as well as Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which is based on a historical play that invokes elements of fairy tales.

Conductors in the Classroom: Anchor Standard #5
When a Boise Phil conductor visits a school orchestra or band to guest rehearse its student members, they are focused on the task of refining the students’ performance. Students responded to the instruction from the guest conductor by playing passages differently and gaining new perspectives on how their music should sound.

Boise Phil Youth Orchestra (BPYO): Anchor Standards #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #10
These standards all relate to the students’ ability to interpret, analyze, internalize, and perform music at a high level. The high school students in the BPYO practiced their parts individually, attended two orchestra rehearsals per week, and performed three public concerts during the 21-22 school year.


Jen Drake, director of the Boise Phil Youth Orchestra, visited several schools this year to guest rehearse orchestra students and help them prepare for upcoming performances. “Jen is top-notch,” a teacher at Boise High reported after one such visit, “She is a wonderful, engaging director who can read the room instantly and inform and inspire students.” Educators who regularly taught the same group of students noted a significant improvement after Jen visited. The same teacher wrote, “It is so HUGELY valuable to have another musician come work with your students. The students gain new ideas and ‘new twists’ on techniques and musical approaches.”

Sara Neddo, a music teacher and the Elementary Music Coordinator for Nampa School District, shared her appreciation for the Phil’s educational resources. Neddo said that Nampa schools almost always take advantage of the musician visits and that participation in the Phil’s yearly school concerts is a certainty. In Neddo’s experience, Boise Phil’s education program is vital because, “Anytime you can get those instruments into the faces of the kids, hear them play, see them being played, and have the musicians talk about their instruments is just a fantastic opportunity.”


This year, the Boise Phil revamped its online library of music education videos. This improved web page is a comprehensive collection of music education videos that is accessible for teachers and students throughout Idaho. This resource proved to be especially useful for sharing our education resources with new educators as well as those who had used it before. Our annual school concert was also recorded and distributed online, making it easier than ever to share this performance with students throughout Idaho.

Boise Phil withheld its service of sending musician ensembles to school in order to comply with Covid safety regulations. However, it continued to send its Youth Orchestra Director Jen Drake to school in order to guest rehearse student ensembles. These visits always received positive feedback from students and teachers, who lauded Jen’s ability to give the students new musical ideas.

Sonic Boom, a new in-classroom music curriculum for 3rd-5th graders, is a new element of Boise Phil’s education program that was first developed and implemented during the 21-22 school year. While it applied general arts standards in its content, Sonic Boom’s activities were not always practical for the classroom. This year, Boise Phil’s new Education Manager (a former educator) is working on improving the curriculum. This will include activities that are more tangible for younger students to grasp and that directly relate to the grade-specific National Arts Standards code.