The San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for opening day celebrations. Photo by Scott Ball.
The San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for opening day celebrations. Photo by Scott Ball.

The San Antonio Symphony has been offering San Antonio Young People’s Concerts (YPC) to introduce area youth to live orchestral music since 1943, but the 2014-2015 Season marks the first time tickets for all the events will be free.

Third, fourth and fifth grade students, among other youth groups from public, private, charter and home school groups and families, can enjoy 23 performances at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts throughout the year.

Each YPC concert program this year will reflect a different co-curricular theme.

As in past years, the season series will fulfill certain Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) objectives for fine arts and a rotating core subject area. A comprehensive teacher’s guide and access to a playlist of concert selections will be made available to teachers in advance to help prepare students for each concert. A total of six performances for each of the four programs will be offered in 2014-2015.

In late February 2015, the Symphony will tell the tragic tale of “Romeo and Juliet” through the ballet music of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.

This series will run on Feb. 26 and March 3-4 with the co-curricular themes of ELA and reading. During the concert, an actor will play the role of William Shakespeare and will read an excerpt from the play that accompanies “Romeo and Juliet.” There also will be a contest for student readings of excerpts from the concert.

The San Antonio Symphony performs at the Tobin Center. Photo by Scott Ball.
The San Antonio Symphony, led by conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing, performs at the Tobin Center during opening day. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Next will be “Billy the Kid” May 5-7, which is also sold out, running with the co-curricular social studies theme and told through the music of Aaron Copland in a ballet suite and a rodeo suite. A visiting cowboy will embody the romanticized existence of the southwestern cowboy in the mid-1800s and the disputed life of Billy the Kid.

Children also will have the chance to participate by using pastels, brushes and chalk for the 2015 Paint to Music Contest. Rewards will be presented by the San Antonio Symphony League.

“The Paint to Music Program should be a fun, exciting competition for them,” Symphony Education Director Jeremy Brimhall said. “Last year we had almost 4,000 students participate from 42 schools. Kids listen to music selections from the concert and create a work of art inspired by the music they hear and relate to the story.”

The San Antonio Symphony League will select four levels of winners for the competition and create digital photos of all the winning artwork, he said.

The San Antonio Symphony is also one of 70 symphonies throughout the world participating in the Link Up Program, a partnership with the Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall in New York that allows audience participation during live concerts.

“Link Up offers a whole supplemental curriculum for music classrooms related to a culminating concert where students learn to play a recorder, dance to specific music selections and explore the repertoire in different ways several months in advance,” Brimhall said.

Through the program, kids begin learning to play along to selections in advance and will bring a recorder to the culminating concert to play.

This year’s concert selections include Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from Symphony No. 9, the Largo from Dvo?ák’s “New World” Symphony, Aaron Copland’s “I Bought Me a Cat,” and others.

All curriculum materials are provided to the Symphony free of charge, and all participating students will receive a free workbook with the student music selection.

Brimhall said last year was the first year for the Symphony to participate in the Link Up Program and that he hopes to reach about 8,000 students and provide 5,000 recorders. The deadline to sign-up for the Link Up Program is Oct. 21.

Almost 30,000 students attended last year’s Young People’s Concerts, of which about 24,000 came from public schools and more than half arrived from low-income and Title 1 schools, were of a minority background, or were considered “at risk.”

The Symphony provides more than $100,000 in scholarship funds to public schools each year through donations, which cover up to 100% of the cost of tickets and also partial transportation costs to Young People’s Concerts for low-income and Title 1 schools and many other schools that would not be able to attend, according to its website.

“In the teacher evaluation form that we sent out after each concert last year, teachers rated it higher than any other young people’s concert I’ve been a part of,” he said. “I expect it to be a big hit again. Students get really excited about being able to not only hear classical and orchestral music, but that it’s their first experience to participate directly.”

For more information about the Young People’s Concerts, visit

There is limited availability for the concerts, so be sure to check schedules and ticket sales here.

*Featured/top image: The San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for opening day celebrations. Photo by Scott Ball.

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Katherine Nickas

Katherine Nickas was born in San Antonio near Fort Sam Houston but grew up in southern Indiana. In 2007, she began working for Indiana AgriNews where she covered topics ranging from corn and soybean production...