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Idaho Falls Youth Symphony

Idaho Falls Symphony Society

The Idaho Falls Youth Symphonies (IFYS) enjoyed a banner year. The group’s roster boasted 114 musicians from 7th-12th grades, combining public, private, charter schools, and home schooled students from Idaho Falls, Rigby, Rexburg, Shelley, and other surrounding communities. The IFYS performed three public concerts during the grant period, with demanding repertoire and regular weekly rehearsals throughout the academic year. Additional one-on-one coaching was provided by Idaho Falls Symphony, scholarships were provided for supplemental private lessons by the Symphony Society, and the students observed professional orchestra rehearsals by the Idaho Falls Symphony and the Grand Teton Music Festival.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Are the students using music as a form of communication while also excelling in performance?

Using the Idaho Content Standards for Humanities/Music, Grades 9-12:

Standard 3, Performance: Utilize concepts essential to music. (Our advanced repertoire requires personal practice and development, observation of countless musical details, and the development of interpersonal skills as members of an ensemble.)

Standard 3, Performance: Communicate through music, applying artistic concepts, knowledge, and skills. (Interpretation by the conductor and discussion of the composer’s intentions in rehearsal encourages students to listen, embrace new ideas, and collaborate as a group.)

Standard 2, Critical Thinking: Formulate and express opinions about musical performance. (The students embrace their passion for music and speak out on behalf of extracurricular musical participation, the cultural and social values of music, and the quality of their own performances.)

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

“One of the advantages of being in Youth symphony is the way it heightens your musical ability everywhere, not just in symphony. Playing this higher level classical music has also helped me improve my performance in in jazz and other styles. I understand the importance of accents and rhythms (just to name a couple) and can apply that to all of my musical endeavors.“ — Megan Hanson, oboe

“[The IFYS] has helped me listen to other parts of the orchestra and communicate with them.” — Sarah Campbell, violin

“The symphony experience is one that is hard to find, but the Idaho Falls Youth Symphony makes it possible. It teaches teamwork, commitment, and expression.” — Karly Lay, violin

“The Idaho Falls Youth Symphony is a great place to improve musical abilities. It is also a great place to meet new people and experience new types of music. The Youth Symphony is a place where everyone feels welcomed and encouraged to come back year after year.” –- Evy Bird, flute

“The youth symphony helps you grow as a musician. It started me in private lessons, which has helped me improve so much.” –- Porter Nilsson, flute

Impact

The impact of the Youth Symphony extends throughout our community. Just this season, the students in the ensemble brought the level of their playing to higher levels each week, from rehearsal to rehearsal, showing marked improvement in their understanding and skills. The parents of the students saw their children overcome difficult intellectual challenges while devoting themselves to the success of a larger group. Siblings of Youth Symphony students listened to countless hours of practice by their older brothers and sisters, finding inspiration in their progress. And with more than 1,000 in attendance at each concert, we all watched in amazement as these students performed like a professional orchestra, communicating emotions and ideas through music and achieving musical excellence in live performance. The concerts were video documented, meaning the impact of the concerts will continue to resonate in the lives of all who participated, long after the music stopped and the stage was cleared. We are now planning to offer free admission, meaning that our impact will extend to individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds. Hearing Youth Symphony concerts has the potential to change lives, and we are excited that now we can offer this potentially life-changing experience to absolutely everyone.

Reflection

Our directors, staff, and volunteers reflect on the Youth Symphony experience as one of the most valuable components of the larger Symphony Society organization. We are teaching diligence and perseverance, teamwork and interpersonal skills, enhancing musical literacy, and broadening historical perspectives. Every student comes to realize the importance of their contribution to the success and reputation of the group, rather than worrying about their own success and reputation. They become members of a full symphony orchestra — an experience that has been cut from many schools due to financial constraints. As we move forward and continue building the Youth Symphony program, our goals are to recruit and inspire an ever-increasing number of students; to build the community’s appreciation for the performing arts; to showcase the talents of our young people; and to foster a life-long dedication to music in the lives of every student. We are committed to keeping classical music alive in the next generation!

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