Hartford Symphony Orchestra Links Up With City Schools For Bushnell Performance
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
May 02, 2012
HARTFORD —— The school buses stretched down the streets near the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday morning.
Inside Mortensen Hall, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra performed from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 for a crowd that was polite but occasionally fidgety. A large screen above the stage displayed facts: "This piece premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1893," for example, and "That's the English horn playing the melody."
Then came the on-screen cue: "Get ready!"
The estimated 2,500 Hartford elementary students in the audience raised their recorders — or plastic flutes — and began to accompany the orchestra with a sound that resembled a cicada chorus.
Link Up, a national program from Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, partners 29 orchestras in the country with local schools for a yearlong music education program that culminates in a live show. Wednesday's 50-minute performance was the first such pairing between the Hartford orchestra and school system.
The students — all in third, fourth or fifth grade — sang, listened and played the recorder when cued. They cheered for the orchestra's playful music director, Carolyn Kuan, and the strings, woodwind, percussion and brass sections. Musical theater students from the University of Hartford's Hartt School also performed.
"Amazing," said Alison Gittleman, a music teacher at Parkville Community School. Throughout the year, her students learned how to read music to prepare for the show. "They loved the songs. ... They memorized it. ... They're already talking about coming back next year."
At one point, the kids went wild over composer Aaron Copland's children's song, "I Bought Me A Cat," with their sing-shouting reverberating in the music hall. ("Duck says, Quack! Quack!")
Later, when the screen revealed that the orchestra would play from Stravinsky's "The Firebird," one girl blurted out in the back, "Yesss."
"It was moving," Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said afterward. "I was in tears watching our kids enjoying the music and being involved with the symphony. ... They need to be thinking of themselves as potential, future orchestra players and artists."
Jackie Coleman, the city schools' senior executive advisor for the arts, said the school system contributed about $18,000 to participate in Link Up. Among the 23 schools involved in the program were M.D. Fox Elementary, Burr, M.L. King, Annie Fisher Montessori, Milner Core Knowledge Academy and the Latino Studies Academy at Burns School.
This year, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra also paired up with the school system on CityMusic, an after-school, El Sistema-inspired initiative at Burns that has introduced the violin to roughly 50 kindergartners, first- and second-graders.
Kuan "feels very strongly about having the orchestra fill an important role in the community and in the Hartford schools," said Jeff Martin, the orchestra's education director.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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