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Forte: YSO out in the school to promote musical education


Ensembles in the Schools: String musicians from the Yakima Symphony Orchestra perform at Apple Valley Elementary School.

YAKIMA, Wash. -- From September through May, the Yakima Symphony Orchestra enchants and inspires through regular live performances on The Capitol Theatre stage. Year-round, YSO musicians and staff do the same off-stage through a variety of education programs.

As the only professional orchestra of its size and artistic scope in Central Washington, the YSO is uniquely equipped to provide certain types of high-quality educational programming centered on instrumental music. These programs provide students with stimulus and inspiration to engage in interactive musical pursuits that can provide lifelong benefits well beyond the musical and technical skills they may acquire.

For the youngest patrons, there is the monthly Meet the Orchestra event at the Yakima Valley Museum’s weekly story hour. A broad range of community musicians, including YSO musicians, share their instruments with children, birth to age 5, and their families. Children try out instruments, and families have opportunities to receive free symphony tickets.

To children during a potent period of language- and experience-building, Beethoven and the violin are as accessible as learning colors and numbers.

Annually, for students in fourth grade (and fifth grade for some smaller school districts), the full orchestra presents a spring Student Concert at The Capitol Theatre. This season’s program, Storytelling Through Music, will include music by Tchaikovsky and Grieg, demonstrations of orchestral instruments and basic music terminology, and a special project through which melodies composed in advance by area students will be orchestrated and performed in concert.

YSO targets this grade level to support and inform students’ decision-making as they choose how to participate in school band and orchestra programs, most of which do not begin until after fourth grade. YSO also supports interest and participation in school music programs through the Ensembles in the Schools program, sending three chamber ensembles of YSO musicians — strings, woodwind and brass — to schools throughout Central Washington.

Bringing smaller groups of musicians into the schools creates opportunities for students to develop more intimate insight into the musical creative process than is possible in the larger concerts, and it reinforces the Student Concert experience for those able to attend.

Throughout the school year, YSO directly employs two musicians from the orchestra roster as teaching artists with Yakima Music en Acción, a social action program that uses intensive after-school orchestral training as a springboard to energize children and strengthen their families and neighborhoods.

As world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has said, “Music enhances the education of our children by helping them to make connections and broadening the depth with which they think and feel.”

On stage and off, YSO seeks to do exactly that for the next generation of leaders in the economic, social and musical life of the Yakima Valley.

• This column was written by the Yakima Symphony Orchestra staff. Learn more at

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