In this series, which was launched in 1998, the Orchestra opens the doors of Avery Fisher Hall for interactive performances that are only available for students in grades 3 through 12. This year more performances have been added and the period from April 30 through May 2 is exclusively devoted to this educational initiative.
The School Day Concerts bind music education with music appreciation. In the words of New York Philharmonic Director of Education Theodore Wiprud, who hosts these events, while the philosophy of "great music that makes a great concert" is a major factor in the series, so too is "a theme that has both musical and broader content." Last season the School Day Concerts were titled "Revolutions in Sound: Romanticism in Music." This season, says Mr. Wiprud, the theme is "'The Art of Listening'‹a topic close to the heart of every teacher who wants kids to hear what goes on in class, let alone [in the hearts of] musicians!"
New York area students are in for a lively, hands-on educational experience during the hour-long matinee concerts. True to the theme of this year's program, says Mr. Wiprud, the concerts "will touch on some of the basic ways of taking in the complex sound of an orchestraand navigating large pieces of music." This year, those pieces, conducted by David Gier, include selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, as well as Ives's Variations on America and a suite of new works composed by fifth graders from the Philharmonic's Very Young Composers program. As host, Mr. Wiprud will introduce each piece before it's performed by the New York Philharmonic; the interactive elements, which are present throughout the concert, may include a question-and-answer session and learning a rhythmic connection through group singing or clapping.
To maximize learning, the School Day Concerts are broken up by age. The two performances on Wednesday, April 30, will be for grades 3-6; the May 1 concerts are for grades 7-12; and on May 2, the performances will be for elementary-school members of the Orchestra's School Partnership Program, which serves 12 New York City public schools.
These events are just as important for music teachers as they are for their students. During the weeks preceding the concerts, the teachers work through a comprehensive curriculum received from the Philharmonic that caters to 45-minute class periods, and includes a CD featuring the music that will be heard at the performances. Teachers also participate in a preparatory workshop at Avery Fisher Hall, where they have the chance to go over the curriculum and to share ideas with their colleagues.
Since they were introduced ten years ago, the Philharmonic's School Day Concerts have enjoyed greater success with each season. As Theodore Wiprud notes, "We expect between 10,000 and
12,000 kids this year; we've gone from four to six performance, increasing our capacity by 50 percent." Given that the concerts have the heft and talent of the New York Philharmonic behind them, this can only be good news for the future of music education.
Amy Hegarty is the Publications Editor of the New York Philharmonic