Lower School Students Visit the York Symphony Orchestra

By: Mrs. Marie Wiley

Students in grades one through five have been getting to know a new friend. His name is Ludwig van Beethoven. Although he has been gone for 189 years, Mr. Beethoven and his music have been quite alive in our music classes as we prepared to attend the York Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of “Beethoven Lives Upstairs.”

Preparations to attend the symphony concert begin as early as the Pre-K and Kindergarten music classes. During those years, we get to know the instruments and how they are grouped into families. We also learn how they are arranged for seating purposes in the orchestra, and the importance of the role of the conductor. We listen to pieces like “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens, and “Peter and the Wolf” by Tchaikovsky. Students are amazed at how instruments can depict animals, characters, emotions, and even weather conditions like thunder storms. Beethoven found much solace in nature and incorporated those familiar sounds into pieces like Symphony Number 6-The Pastoral Symphony.

Students in grades one through five viewed the “Meet the Musicians” DVD about Beethoven’s life and music. Mr. Dennis Kobray, an amazing actor and musician, dresses as the composer and talks about “his life and music.” He is a phenomenal pianist and plays as many musical selections as he can. He also uses recorded material when he is discussing symphonies or other larger works. Mr. Kobray’s acting performance is so authentic. Students come away with a deep understanding of how the composer’s life events, emotions, and experiences factored in to and affected the music he wrote. In fact, many are surprised at the end when he discloses he is not really the person he has been discussing.

Finally, there is no substitute for experiencing a symphony orchestra live in a concert hall. Some of my own most fulfilling moments as a flutist have been as a member of the York Symphony. In a world that moves so fast and is driven by technology, it is important to take advantage of these opportunities to expose our children to other forms of communication that uses no words, no typing, and no screens, just the power of the music. As we returned to school, many students said, “Wow that was amazing!” or “I didn’t know it would be like that!” We will take time next week to debrief on our experience. It is important to take that time to share our own feelings about the concert. The live musical traditions of symphonies, opera, theater, and ballet, have been around for hundreds of years. They need to be passed on and valued. After all, our children are the audience of tomorrow.