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Columbus Symphony Orchestra brings music and education to students in Columbus community


Students arrive for a Young People’s Concert, an event put on by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at the Ohio Theatre. Credit: Courtesy of Columbus Association for the Performing Arts

As people around the world grappled with their own pandemic-related challenges, the Columbus Symphony strived to keep local students playing music.

After its initial COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020, the Columbus Symphony shifted its focus to keeping students active and engaged with music. Over the last year, the Columbus Symphony’s programs reached about 55,000 primary and secondary school students through youth orchestras and education programs, Denise Rehg, executive director of the Columbus Symphony, said.

In addition to working with Columbus City Schools, the Columbus Symphony’s own professional musicians assisted students through videos and lessons to bring music to students, especially those attending lower-income schools.

“We have missed being able to go directly to the schools, but next year we intend to double the number of schools we go to,” Rehg said. “As we come out of COVID, we really feel like we should be there to try to bolster our children’s ability to turn the corner and become positive and re-inspired.”

The Mindful Music Moments program, one of the organization’s initiatives, administers a prompt through a school intercom system or Zoom and students must sit and think about the prompt while recorded music plays, Rehg said. 

As of now, 34 schools plus a law firm are enrolled in the Columbus Symphony’s free program.

“We believe that Mindful Music Moments offers children a safe place to just connect to themselves and to the world and to take a respite moment to become not so fidgety, and to become more focused,” Rehg said. “I had a law firm sign up for that program this year because the law firm thought it would be a good idea for their employees to have a moment where they would sit and quietly think about something.”

Members of the Columbus Symphony will join members of the Cleveland Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to record a virtual performance to play in schools participating in the Mindful Music Moments program throughout May, according to a May 5 press release from the Columbus Symphony. Students will be treated to the performance prior to its Facebook premiere June 10.

The Columbus Symphony also teaches about music within the third-grade curriculum throughout Columbus City Schools, first teaching students about instruments used in the Columbus Symphony and later about the composers, Rehg said. 

Columbus Symphony musicians created over 85 videos for the classes, such as from Rossen Milanov, music director for the Columbus Symphony, showing students how individual instruments come together in a concert.

In addition to working on giving lower-income schools free access to the Columbus Symphony’s education programs next year, all of the upcoming season’s concerts will be free for children ages 6 through 16, Rehg said.

“The idea being we want them to come down with their families and enjoy an outing without families [having] to look for babysitters,” Rehg said. “It’s quality, healthy, enlightening, inspiring family time.”

The Columbus Symphony’s youth orchestras have also run rehearsals in person and via Zoom since August and have had to constantly adapt to COVID-19, Madison Hookfin, youth manager for the Columbus Symphony youth orchestras, said. The youth orchestras partnered with the professional Columbus Symphony musicians to coach and judge individual sessions for around 250 students enrolled in the youth programs.

“We couldn’t do it without the musicians,” Meghan McDevitt, director of education at the Columbus Symphony, said. “We were 100 percent supported by our orchestra.”

McDevitt said the ability to keep all of the Columbus Symphony musicians employed during the pandemic also helped with education availability. 

Providing greater access to music opportunities and fostering students’ love for music is an important aspect of the youth initiatives, Hookfin said.

“I went to school for violin performance, and I really just loved playing. I really loved being a part of a group of people who were like me and we’d get to come together and make music together,” Hookfin said. “I really wanted to move forward and put my passion into providing that for others, especially for around the Columbus community.”

Hookfin said she hopes the Columbus Symphony will be able to serve as a positive force in the lives of students.

“I know the value of music, I know the positivity, and how great it is to have in your life, and so I want to be able to provide that for others,” Hookfin said.

This content was originally published here.

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