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Idaho Falls Symphony Outreach

Idaho Falls Symphony Society

Our education and outreach programs include the Idaho Falls Youth Symphony (100+ students enrolled), the Ambassador Program (3,000+ students impacted), and the Family Concert (1,000+ children impacted). Each of these programs is designed to provide music education to local students and foster music appreciation in the next generation. The Youth Symphony brings together students from middle schools and high schools across the region, unifying different ages and abilities around the performance of great orchestral works. Our Ambassador Program sends select groups of our professional Symphony musicians into elementary schools (28 individual schools reached), and their visits are followed by a Book Bag in each library featuring books on music and performance. Finally, 2018-19 saw two Family Concerts: a holiday caroling concert, and Peter & The Wolf in May 2019. The Family Concerts include an interactive Instrument Petting Zoo, where children of all ages are given a first­hand introduction to the instruments of the orchestra by our friendly (and patient!) musicians.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Do our education programs provide the community with access to music education for children of all ages?

We strive to reach children of all ages, starting as young as infants who are welcome at our annual Family Concerts. By offering two during this past season, we gave families additional opportunities to expose their children to a live orchestra. In addition to witnessing the performance, we establish connections to the instruments and musicians on stage by holding an Instrument Petting Zoo before each performance, during which Idaho Falls Symphony musicians help children to properly hold and play the instrument that they then play in the orchestra.

Elementary students are reached through our Ambassador Program, which visited thirty area schools this year and saw approximately 5,500 students. These programs are performed for students in grades K-6.

The Idaho Falls Youth Symphony is open to students grades 7-12. This year we had approximately 95 participants who were able to perform two concerts at the Civic Center for the Performing Arts. They played some challenging, genuine orchestra music in addition to lighter pieces that helped them to learn performance concepts.

The Young Artists Competition allows us to reach both high school students (junior division) and college students (senior division). By offering prize money this year, we significantly increased the number of applicants to around 30.

Through these many programs, we feel that we are providing quality music education experiences to the students of our community.

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

One student who participated in the Idaho Falls Youth Symphony provided the following feedback:

“It was really fun to play with a[n] orchestral group of this level! One thing that really stood out to me was how many opportunities were offered. One example of this was the opportunity to play with the Idaho Falls Symphony on the Beethoven piece. I did not participate; however, it was a really cool opportunity that was offered that allowed people to play with professionals and learn from them, which I thought was really nice. Everyone in the ensemble seemed friendly, and professor Soelberg seemed really aimed toward helping us to succeed and pushing us forward. I was very impressed with this ensemble and look forward to another year participating with them!”

We provide a feedback form to all participants of our programs and keep a close eye on submissions. Youth Symphony students are the most eager to provide their feedback.

We don’t have access to the students who participate in the Ambassador Program, however a teacher writes:

“I love how [the Ambassador Program musicians] taught. I teach music here at the elementary school and felt this truly added to the class.”

Impact

We are helping the young people connected with the Idaho Falls Symphony to have hands-on, up-close, live experiences with the symphony orchestra and related chamber ensembles. Most of our educational programming gives students the opportunity to ask questions of trained experts in their instrument/the field of orchestral music. We also allow students to touch, hold, and play instruments as often as possible. By providing students with engaging and direct experiences with musical instruments, professional musicians, and the music from the canon of great orchestral composers, we are igniting a spark of curiosity that will hopefully turn these students into the audiences of our future.

Reflection

Our efforts this season give such exciting momentum to the rest of what we do! Thanks to the support from our community and enthusiasm of the students participating in our programs, we have been able to make some real steps in growing our offerings. We have developed a second ensemble for the Youth Symphony to help them to improve, and have added a fourth ensemble to the Ambassador Program so we can reach more schools and more students. We continue to hone our Instrument Petting Zoos and develop exciting programming for our Family Concert patrons – while looking for ways to keep the cost of attending low for families with many children.

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