Collaboration is music to our ears

March was music in our schools month and one moment on March 7 displayed how music in our schools helps lead to music on our stages, and in our communities.
Most of us remember the day we were handed a recorder in music class, or the day a child or grandchild excitedly brought one home from school. We learned familiar tunes that reinforced some basic components of musicianship and together, created music. For 1,600 students from classrooms both local and from as far away as Norway, Michigan, that moment happened earlier this school year and now was the time to show off as they all came together for a presentation of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute’s Link Up: The Orchestra Sings. 
The Link Up program at the Fox Cities P.A.C. was a collaboration between the Center, the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra and classroom educators. Thanks to a generous donation from the Les and Dar Stumpf Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, more than 1,000 recorders were donated to break down financial barriers schools may have had to participate.
Educators were invited to a professional development workshop to learn more about the program and provided resources for themselves and their students to get ready for the collaborative performance. They returned to their classrooms to teach the songs students would play or sing along with the Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra on the performance day. Teachers could also request visits by professional members of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra to help their students learn more about playing as a group and about the pieces they were to perform.

“Students definitely gained knowledge of the instrument families, of famous orchestral works and useful vocabulary of music. They also developed confidence and pride in their musicianship and performance,” said Beth Kinzel, music specialist for Westside Elementary in Kimberly.

Once they arrived at the Center, students were welcomed with trivia questions they had learned about in preparation and excitedly shouted answers out with their classes. Once the program began, students were invited to listen to works by famous composers, sing familiar melodies like “Simple Gifts” by Joseph Brackett play along to recognizable tunes like “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven on their recorders. The program ended with a fun and joyful celebration with the entire orchestra and audience singing, playing, and moving to the Latin groove in “Oye”.

“The combination of listening, singing and playing was so exciting. It’s the best of all worlds and encompasses what we aim for in the general music classroom,” said Kinzel. “It was a perfect fit for our kids and curriculum.”
Kinzel’s fourth grade student Landyn Leonard said his favorite part of the program was being able to sing along with the program and that practicing helped remind him that it’s important to always try your best. As for what he learned?

“You will always succeed when you work together,” he said.

“My hope is always that students were inspired to continue enjoying music for the long-term,” Kinzel added. “Whether they sing, play an instrument or just enjoy listening to live performances…I want them to take the experience and carry it with them always.”
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