Community Music

I was delighted by an article in the Sunday New York Times written by Anthony Tommasini.  The title, “Looking for Citizens for a Few Good Orchestras,” certainly did not grab me.  But the article and the concept behind it did!

Starting January 7,2007 a new program called the Academy will be run by both the Julliard School and Carnegie Hall.  The Academy is a performance and education initiative for postgraduate musicians.  Initially, 16 musicians will receive a wonderful opportunity to perform (at Carnegie Hall) study (at Julliard) and teach (1 1/2 days a week with the NY City Department of Education.)

The goal is to place these 16 talented performers in the public schools to inspire and engage the students; to work closely with classroom music teachers; and to become a presence in the community.

Clive Gillinson, the Executive Director of Carnegie Hall implemented a similar program while he was the managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra.  He has high hopes that the Academy will light a spark of engagement between traditional performance groups, students and the community.  He envisions the possibility that the public school system will create adjunct positions that would enable more professional musicians to work alongside school band, orchestra and choral directors.

Today, most “Arts Enrichment” or “Community Outreach” programs offer little more than a “drive through” experience.  A few performers show up at the public school or community center; perform a few pieces; talk to to audience and then quickly depart.  For some students this is their only exposure to the arts.  Few students – and even fewer professional musicians – gain much from this type of program.

The Academy – and other similar programs – aim to change this dramatically!  Because the performers will return to each school on a regular basis, they will have the opportunity to make a bigger impact on the students.  In turn, I suspect that the students – and their teachers – will make a major impact on the professional musicians.  Some students may get the opportunity to dream of a world that was previously unknown or unavailable to them.  For some of the musicians, this opportunity will spark a desire to devote more of their time and attention to building community involvement and developing future audiences for their craft.

I applaud this program and hope that it succeeds and inspires other conservatories and concert venues to embark on a similar course. 

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