YAKIMA, Wash. -- From February through May, during the two days prior to each Yakima Symphony Orchestra concert, ensembles of three to five string, wind and brass musicians in the YSO’s Ensembles in the Schools program travel throughout Yakima, Kittitas and Grant counties, taking their instruments and passion for music into our schools.
They perform, answer questions and help inspire the next generation of musicians and concertgoers.
Their stages vary from school classrooms to orchestra, band and chorus rehearsal rooms to gyms and auditoriums. Their listeners vary from 20 to several hundred students. While their primary audiences are fourth- and fifth-graders, students from preschool through high school also have opportunities to learn about the instruments in the orchestra from, and hear beautiful music performed by, professional musicians.
For YSO musicians, ensemble days are packed, often with three performances in the morning and three in the afternoon, at as many as six schools. In most cases, one or two afternoon/evening symphony rehearsals occur daily after the ensemble visits.
The musicians greatly enjoy these opportunities in the schools. For some, it was this sort of interaction with professional musicians when they were children that helped them develop a love of music and the desire to learn to play an instrument.
One telltale sign that ensemble musicians may be visiting a school: group of cars in the parking lot displaying “Music Matters” license plates. Music Matters is a program that supports public school music programs through the sale of recognizable, bright yellow, music-themed license plates. (Want one? Visit bit.ly/YHR-MusicPlates.)
Last year, ensembles visited 46 schools and gave 60 performances. With increased demand, this year they are poised to visit and perform even more.
Many fourth- and fifth-graders will see the same musicians they met at their schools on stage at the YSO’s Student Concerts in May; this is a strategy designed specifically to support their decision-making about which instrument they would like to learn to play in school.
This year’s student concert program, Storytelling Through Music, will feature Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, and a special participation opportunity for classes to write a melody to be played by the orchestra at the concerts. Nearly 3,000 students will attend these concerts in the magnificent Capitol Theatre.
The Ensembles in the Schools program and Student Concerts are supported through the financial generosity of our community. They are helping to inspire our next generation of young people whose involvement in live musical performance, whether as audience members or as musicians on stage, will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
• This column was written by the Yakima Symphony Orchestra staff. Learn more at www.ysomusic.org.