How can a school district increase enrollment in its music programs? Nashua found an innovative response. Administrators worked to give students from the district’s elementary schools the opportunity to engage with classical music- an art form new to many of them. Thanks to a grant from the NH State Council on the Arts, schools were able to bring in members of Symphony NH to introduce students to their instruments and to teach them about the classical tradition. Then, in the spring, the Symphony performed a special program for the children in a Nashua concert hall.
“ Our shared goal is to help students understand that ‘classical’ music speaks to everyone,” said one organizer, “that no single culture or continent or country has ownership of its history, its present, or its future”.
The culminating concert introduced students to some of the cornerstones of the classical repertoire: Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony, Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’, excerpts from Holst’s ‘Planets’, and more.
Symphony NH’s musicians loved working with the students. One of the group’s oboists observed, “the response from the children- [is] often hilarious; it’s so heartfelt, it’s so spontaneous… It’s, as Ozawa used to say, ‘Lighting a match in a dry forest’”. One goal of the program is to spark students’ interest in learning an instrument. Eventually, coordinators hope, the school district’s band, chorus, and strings programs will benefit.
The initiative appears to have been vastly successful. “I liked all the power inside the music”, said one student. “I learned that music can be used for talking,” said another. These fundamental lessons–that music can be incredibly moving and articulate–are lessons that children might not have otherwise been exposed to, and which kindle a life-long love of music.
This program was made possible through a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.