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Idaho Falls Symphony Educational Programming

Idaho Falls Symphony

The Ambassador Program is an opportunity for professional ensembles to visit grade schools so students can hear live music, a first for many children, and share a lesson on music and the instruments. The Ambassador Program resumed in person visits in Spring 2022.

The Ambassador Program is a free music education opportunity for participating schools throughout the region. Our Family Concert targets families with children of all ages. In November of 2021, due to the pandemic, “Paddington Bears First Concert” was live-streamed for families to gather and watch together at home. The Idaho Falls Symphony Youth Symphony program supports the musical training and ambitions of approximately 100 student musicians. Students auditioned virtually but were able to practice together and perform two concerts in -person. This robust program is supported by many professional musicians who act as mentors who share techniques and training to improve and hone students’ skills.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How does understanding structure and context inform performances and how does presentation influence audience response?

Students in our Youth Symphony meet National Core Arts Standard #5 (MU:Pr5.1.H.8a) by participating in weekly rehearsals and sectionals with professional mentors who help them learn the selected repertoire and develop their artistic technique by sharing best practices. Standard #6 (MU:Pr6.1.H.Ia) is met when students analyze parts to bring to group rehearsal and learn the artistic meaning behind the technique. Choosing music for the Concerto Competition also gives students an opportunity to meet standard #4 (MU:Pr4.1.H.8a), by selecting music to analyze and interpret and present to a panel of judges. Family Concerts allow students to respond and connect with the orchestra and repertoire for the performance. Our music director incorporates crowd response into the performance, asking the audience questions about volume, tempo, timbre, (MU:Pr4.2.5a), and makes societal and cultural connections with the music (MU:Pr4.2.5c). The Ambassador Program gives students the opportunity to perceive and analyze artistic work, anchor standard #4, by performing live. Ensembles ask students to identify characteristics of the performance: was the music fast, slow, loud, soft? Which instruments were playing, which were resting? (MU:Pr4.3.5a)

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

During the Spring Concert of the IFSYO, two students performed solos. Both students auditioned and worked hard to accomplish an outcome. Soloists provide an opportunity to understand how the music works as a whole and to see the importance of each individual in the entire composition. As students work to learn their role and how they work together to create an entire piece they learn how they influence the audience. One of the soloists from this year went on to win second place in a competition at the Grand Teton Music Festival, showing the high level and caliber reached through experiences in Youth Symphony. Though we did not collect data from students who watched the virtual family concert, we gauge interest based on the number of links purchased. 663 links were sold for this performance. Additionally, requests for family programming have increased for the 2022-2023 Season. Ambassadors did not hand out questionnaires and response sheets this year, due to the pandemic, however, schools were anxious to engage and have the Ambassadors come and play at their school. Word of mouth continues to grow the program.

Impact

Though the program was shortened due to the pandemic (performances could not begin until February), IFS Ambassador Ensembles completed 25 outreach performances reaching an estimated 3,250 students throughout Eastern Idaho. A favorite moment was watching students respond to the Jazz ensemble. Eyes wide, students swayed and responded to the rhythms of the music. Students in low-income areas who traditionally have less access to live music, were attentive throughout the presentations. Many of the students from the IFSYO wanted to encourage friends to audition and join the group. Students held a drawing contest to design t-shirts for next year and were actively engaged in promoting the Symphony. Students also volunteered to usher at IFS concerts so they could have an opportunity to hear professional musicians at work. Though the Paddington Bear concert was entirely virtual, our ticket sales reflect an increase in engagement over virtual concerts. Ticket sales show 663 links were used to access the concert. In general, at least two viewers are assumed for each link. Additionally, when we returned to live in-person performances in December, our ticket sales show an interest in both virtual and in-person experiences.

Reflection

Educating young lives about the wonder and joy of music has been extremely successful. Helping young people explore the possibility of having music influence them throughout their lives has been very rewarding as it helps us to create and build stronger communities focused on education outcomes. Tracking and data collection has not been a priority over this past year. This is an important factor moving forward to help us understand the true impact of these programs. We are excited that the capacity has grown and we were able to admit more students for the coming year. However, we can work harder to make sure that all private music teachers and school music are aware of auditions with ample time to inform their students. As a whole the education programs of the IFS continue to move forward progressing the mission of the Symphony and reaching broader and more diverse audiences. It is exciting to see the ways that these programs are inclusive and educational.

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