The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
What combination of programs will most effectively reach the youth of Southeast Idaho?
The answer to our essential question was to have three programs that work in tandem: first, our Ambassador Program brings our musicians directly into classrooms to introduce musical concepts to elementary school students. From there, students in elementary and middle schools are the target audience of the Family Concerts and School Concerts of the Idaho Falls Symphony. And finally, motivated students at the high school level can audition for the Idaho Falls Symphony Youth Orchestra.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Due to the abrupt and ongoing changes to the format of our programs this season, and our staff having to completely pivot their responsibilities, students were not asked to respond to questions.
The global pandemic forced our education programs online, but the impacts were still tangible. For example, many of the students in our Youth Orchestra had never heard themselves on a recording before, but this year they recorded themselves and added their instrumental lines to a video recording mashup, learning valuable technology skills in the process. By the end of the project, I noticed that students were paying more attention to the quality of their individual playing. In another example, our Ambassador musicians were not permitted in the schools this season, but instead we provided a narrated performance of Copland’s Appalachian Spring to our partnering schools, reaching a wider audience of students than ever. I was surprised by how the pandemic shutdown actually provided more possibilities than we could have ever imagined for music education.
Managing the various tiers of our music education program at the Idaho Falls Symphony was hugely challenging this season during the pandemic shutdown. Thankfully, we were so fortunate to have a staff that could pivot quickly, communicate effectively, and generate new opportunities. Requesting the volunteer submissions of each Youth Orchestra student worked extremely well, they were happy to share their personal musical endeavors with their peers and instructors. For other organizations working to refashion similar programs, I would recommend soliciting the ideas of the students and their families at the outset, to get a feel for their ideas and look for trends in their suggestions. We learned that often the best ideas are those coming from the students themselves, and looking back, we would have liked to take even more of their ideas under consideration.