Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stuart & Friends: Meeting Students, Enriching Lives

One thing every musician learns fairly early, once the career path has been established, is that every performer, every composer needs to have an audience. And that's more than just playing in front of them, now.

There's also the future to consider, especially in a time when the role of the Arts in the public schools is almost ignored and most of the exposure the students have is from TV or the internet.

"Educational Outreach" is a term applied to a program when people from a group go out into the schools to meet and talk with students. In music, this usually means a performance for the students and a chance to talk to them about different aspects of the music they're listening to.

It's a largely unsung part of the musical group's life, far removed from the awareness of the audience who many only hear them perform in a concert hall. In many cases, these "outreach programs" are more important for the long range planning - the idea of building future audiences when, somewhere down the line, these students may start going to concerts and buying tickets on their own - and then introduce their own children to classical music through their positive reinforcement.

When I was going to college, one of the biggest issues I had with my music education courses was its almost total involvement with identifying future musicians and getting them started on a specific career path. This often left many students who may not have had the talent or the interest to go on to a professional level feeling frustrated. People can enjoy music without having to play it, write it or be experts in it. Instead, many of them are turned off and carry these negative impressions over into the next generation, their children.

It can be a very significant aspect of a person's life experience that will enrich their lives in ways no one can easily predict or successfully measure.

It's hard to say what will get a student interested in classical music but it's a pretty safe bet to say if they have NO experience with it, NO encounter with it, it's probably not going to happen on its own.

As part of this week's Stuart & Friends program, Stuart Malina and three members of the Harrisburg Symphony made two separate visits to schools in the area.

On Tuesday, Stuart and the orchestra's concertmaster Odin Rathnam performed for a group of students with disabilities (some multiple) at the Marshall School in Harrisburg, giving them a chance at an "up-close and personal" interaction with the musicians and the music they were making.

On Wednesday morning, following Tuesday night's well-attended concert at Whitaker Center, principal trumpet Phil Snedecor and principal trombone Brent Phillips joined Stuart at the Hershey School.

The photographs in this post were taken by Kim Isenhour, Director of Marketing for the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra.

You can follow these links to the Harrisburg Patriot-News website PennLive to see videos posted there taken by Dan Gleiter.

- Dr. Dick

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