by Anna Ferraro
On Tuesday, February 21st, approximately 1,000 students from Jacksonville and surrounding areas attended their morning class in a concert hall. Their classroom – Annie Merner Chapel. Their instructor – the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO). With a concert at 10:00a.m. and a repeat performance at 12:30p.m., the concerts were an opportunity to expose students to the sights and sounds of the symphony.
Jean Harlow-Truesdell, the Youth Outreach Chairman for the JSO shared, “The committee’s goal is to provide a free concert to students to expose them to live orchestral music… [We want to] stimulate interest in the children so that they may also want to take up an instrument and be a part of a band or orchestra.”
Having been offered to area schoolchildren for approximately 30 years, the music in these concerts is programmed to appeal to students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. This year, the theme of the concert was “Nature and Music,” and included “Outdoor Overture” by Aaron Copland, “Morning” (from the Peer Gynt Suite) by Edvard Grieg, “Thunderstorm” from Beethoven’s “Pastoral” symphony, the “Thunder and Lightning Polka” by Johann Strauss, Jr., excerpts from “Water Music” by George Frederick Handel, and “Night on Bald Mountain” by Alexander Borodin – an epic piece that depicts the spookiness of the night. The concert concluded with what the JSO called an “out of this world trip” – music from “Star Wars” by John Williams.
Harlow-Truesdell shared, “We are now averaging over 1000 students at these concerts with around 12 different school districts represented, including public and private schools and homeschooled students…. Most area students have never been to a live performance of an orchestra, so the teachers really want their students to attend our Youth Concert…. [The teachers] are very appreciative of the JSO offering these free concerts for their students.”
With a bent towards enriching education and the arts in the Jacksonville area, the JSO performs regularly throughout the academic year, offering free admission to all concerts for all students. Harlow-Truesdell stated, “I would hope that some students who attended the Youth Concert on February 21 would ask their parents if they can attend a regular concert of the orchestra later in the spring, with the next concert being held on March 25.” In addition, prior to most concerts, there is a short program called “Before the Baton.” Geared to children but open to everyone, this program features some aspect of the music that will be performed that evening.
The Youth Concert for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra was sponsored by Bound to Stay Bound Books, the Kiwanis Club, Prairieland United Way, and the Pilot Club. To learn how you or your organization can become involved with the JSO, or to see a listing of their upcoming events, visit them online at: www.jaxsym.org.