“I want to play all the instruments you have…”

December 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

With the end of 2012, we wanted to share a few of our favorite thank you notes from students in our community. Our Education & Community Outreach programs reach tens of thousands of students in the Hartford region, and like everything we do at the HSO, it would not be possible without support from our friends like you.


So, our thanks to YOU, our subscribers, concert attendees, donors and advocates.


If you’d like to make an end-of-year gift to the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, you can do so securely online. Your gift will give us the resources to continue bringing music to everyone in our community, including our friend who writes below, “When I grow up, I want to play all the instruments you have.” That’s the kind of enthusiasm we like to see!


Happy New Year!

Music Moves Us

October 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In early May of 2013, nearly 2,500 Hartford Public Schools students will take part in Link Up, one of our most popular education programs.  The theme for the program is “The Orchestra Moves,” and it asks students to think about how music relates to movement.  During the concert, students will hear Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5 as they explore how a musical motive can move throughout the orchestra, while Johann Strauss’s Waltz of the Blue Danube shows the movement of melody through leaps and steps.  Whether we are tapping our feet or listening to a beautiful theme move through the different instrument families, music moves us.

Not surprisingly, this year the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s theme is Music Moves Us.  We believe that music can move us in so many ways — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and beyond.  Most of us can recall a time when listening to or performing music has led us to become emotionally moved.  For example, it is hard for me not to be moved when I hear some of my favorite works like Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, arias from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, or Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night.   I’m sure many of us could go on and on for quite some time about the different pieces and ways that music moves us.

Late last month, music moved me in a very different way.  The HSO’s Instrument Petting Zoo is a favorite education program for children (and adults) and makes appearances in schools, daycare centers, festivals, and more.  Last month, we had the privilege of hosting an Instrument Petting Zoo at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford.  In addition to learning about the many instruments of the orchestra, thanks to the amazing staff at ASD, students were also given the opportunity to try to play the different instruments.  As I watched, I was moved as the eyes of a little girl widened and brightened as she felt the vibration of a violin against her neck and shoulder, and a young man laughed aloud after feeling the buzz of a trumpet against his lips.  They were moved by the sensations of music, and I was moved by observing their new and exciting experience.


A young student at the American School for the Deaf feels the vibrations of drawing a bow across the strings of a violin at the HSO Instrument Petting Zoo


A middle school student at the American School for the Deaf tries his hand at playing the trumpet.

As you experience music in many different ways, pay attention to its movement.  Listen to how melodies flow, harmonies progress, and rhythms drive forward.  Allow yourself also to be emotionally moved by music for the impact it has on you, as well as the profound impact it has on others.


An Orchestra’s Role in Arts Education

September 12th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

In the summer of 2010, Congress passed a resolution designating the second week of September as National Arts in Education Week.  So, to all of us, happy National Arts in Education Week!  I hope that you might reflect a bit this week on how you have benefited from arts education as well as how you might support it in your community.


One of the questions I hear often, and one with which orchestras throughout the world are wrestling, is, “Why us?”  More completely, what role does an orchestra play in providing music education for America’s children?  Many answers abound, ranging from the interest in preserving the great orchestral tradition to the seemingly fear-inspired idea of “If we don’t do it, who will?”  Answers like these have their place, but I would like pose another thought.

In May of 2011, the Arts Education Partnership released a brief document entitled “What School Leaders Can Do to Increase Arts Education.”  The three-prong approach suggests the following:

  1. Establish a School-Wide Commitment to Arts Learning
  2. Create an Arts-Rich Learning Environment
  3. Rethink the Use of Time and Resources

I applaud the AEP for outlining these steps, and I strongly encourage teachers and other educational leaders to transform their schools by increasing arts education.  There is no shortage of evidence to suggest that arts education can impart worthwhile academic, social, and personal benefits to students who experience the arts.

School leaders, from superintendents to classroom teachers and legislators to building principals, can make an impact on the arts education of our children.  Their role is clear.  But what then is the role of the professional orchestra (or theater company, dance troupe, art museum, etc.)?  As suggested earlier, some approach the answer to this question with an almost desperate and martyr-like urgency:

The failure to acknowledge the significant impact orchestras have on young people, and the work they are continuing to do to develop and expand music provision, is disappointing. Engaging with professional orchestras and other arts organisations is a key part of effective music education – one that should be recognised and celebrated.

            — Mark Pemberton, Director, British Association of Orchestras

While Mr. Pemberton’s remarks are true and highlight the importance of orchestras, I propose we think of our role in education as a privilege more than a responsibility.  As professional orchestras, we believe wholeheartedly in the art we create and feel strongly about keeping orchestral music alive.  We have a gift, and it is a privilege to share it with others!  Professional arts organizations, including orchestras, should engage with schools not so much out of a sense of obligation or responsibility, but rather because we have something great to offer that will improve the lives of young people.  And I believe this has implications beyond the arts as well: professional sports teams, professional chefs, successful entrepreneurs, and so on should be engaging with our schools because they have something valuable to offer.  If we look at our interactions with schools as privileges rather than requirements, the answer to the “why” question becomes clear.  As a professional orchestra, we play a role in education because we bring to the table something that strengthens and enlivens the student experience.


The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is committed to playing an important role in the schools of Greater Hartford.  We do so because we believe we can help to strengthen our schools and enrich the lives of our students.  The HSO wants to be the first to wish all students, teachers, and principals of Greater Hartford a very happy National Arts in Education Week.  It is our privilege to share great music with you.

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