The exploration of orchestral repertoire is not typically at the forefront of elementary students’ minds, but for a year about 7,000 students in the San Antonio area will carry a soprano recorder in their backpacks. Through the Link Up program, they’re learning basic musical concepts, how to play the classics (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven), and even composing their own music. Dancing and singing are, of course, never far from musical programs, and Link Up is no exception.
“It made them much more interested in practicing and learning how to be responsible,” said Schneck Elementary School Principal Donna Finch in the video below produced by local PR/Creative Consultant, Elijah Zane for the Symphony. “It made them more interested in doing better in school because that was part of the strings attached – you had to do well in school (in order to play), you had to be learning and being successful.”
Link Up started in the 1990s at Carnegie Hall in New York through their Weill Music Institute, and a partnership with the San Antonio Symphony brought it to San Antonio last year. The program “links classrooms to the concert hall” by providing standards-based teacher and student materials. The year-long curricula are divided into themes. “The Orchestra Moves” was the program theme for the Symphony’s first year in the program, 2013-2014. “The Orchestra Sings” will be the next.
The program culminates with students performing with a professional orchestra from their seats at a final concert. This year’s concerts were in May. Students are currently practicing at several local elementary and middle schools for the “The Orchestra Sings” concert on May 19, 20, and 21 in 2015.
“We have public schools from multiple districts and counties attending as well as private schools and homeschool groups and families. Any teacher or parent can apply to participate in the program, ” said Jeremy Brimhall, director of education for the Symphony. “Preference is given to third though fifth graders and also to Title I schools.”
The Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall expects to have 70 orchestras and over 300,000 students participating in Link Up worldwide in 2014-15.