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Pacific Symphony's Class Act Enters 23rd Season As Students Throughout Orange County Discover The Magic Of Music Through Beethoven's Trials And Triumphs
Orange County, Calif. — September 25, 2017
More than 23 years ago, Pacific Symphony first joined hands with Orange County schools and parents to create a program that would bring quality music education to elementary school children, and it’s been a class act ever since! Each year, fall marks the kick-off of the popular Frieda Belinfante Class Act program—one of the Symphony’s oldest and most revered partnership programs—with an annual Welcome Event, followed by the first Prelude Assemblies of the 2017-18 season. At the heart of Class Act are Pacific Symphony musicians, who take on the role of teaching artists to ignite the joy of music in more than 15,000 students throughout Orange County, creating bonds between the schools and the Symphony, as well as within individual schools.
“Class Act is an amazing program that makes classical music accessible and relatable to students of all ages,” says Jonathan Terry, the Symphony’s director of education. “Each year, students learn about a different composer through a new theme. It’s a truly special program that brings Symphony musicians into classrooms to teach what makes music so remarkable.”
Designed to rev the engines of everyone who will be involved in Class Act, the Welcome Event was held this year in conjunction with the Symphony’s first Sunday Casual Connections concert (“Beethoven’s Fifth Revealed”) on Sept. 17.
“The Welcome Event is for all of our Class Act participants,” explains Terry. “Each school has a Class Act team comprised of the principal, teacher representatives, office staff, music teachers, community liaisons and parent coordinators. This event is a chance for all of our school teams to enjoy a concert, meet each other and the staff, and to hear first-hand from Class Act parents’ Symphony President John Forsyte and Music Director Carl St.Clair about the impact of the program.”
The real magic happens when Class Act officially launches on Oct. 11 with the first Prelude Assemblies, which are presented to entire student bodies and hosted by a professional actor to prepare the way for classroom lessons to begin. Geared toward specific grade levels, the lessons are taught by Symphony musicians, who share details about their careers, while exploring the works of noteworthy composers and the evolution of symphonic music. This year, our musicians will help students discover the genius of Beethoven (and other composers) through the theme—“Beethoven: Trials to Triumph.”
“Pacific Symphony musicians are essential to Class Act,” states Terry. “Their personal experiences make the program special. During lessons last year, Elliott Moreau [bassoon] told the story of his audition for the orchestra. The students were captivated hearing about the process and cheered at the end of the story when he announced he won the position. It is these personal stories, the musicians’ first experiences with their own instruments and other musical tales, that only they can bring.”
Teaching musicians are given a great deal of freedom in writing their lessons and are encouraged to take creative approaches, while tapping individual musical interests and capabilities. Drawing its strength not only from Symphony musicians, but also parent volunteers, classroom and music teachers, principals and district leadership, Class Act allows the Symphony to connect with the community in a unique and powerful way—creating memorable and impactful musical experiences shared between the students and the musicians.
“During the past year, I’ve seen students gain an understanding and increased interest in classical music,” notes Terry. “With last year’s featured composer, Mozart, we explored a young child prodigy whose genius was unparalleled. His music is often joyful even though his life did not mirror the same emotion. Beethoven was not the same natural talent, though he was pushed to reach the same level of greatness as Mozart. Beethoven overcame tremendous obstacles in his life and his music expresses his struggles, concluding with complete joy with his Ninth Symphony. Our hope is that students this year will experience the ways Beethoven expressed his emotions through his music and how music can be an outlet for individual expression.”
Other Class Act activities include Family Night ensemble performances presented at each school by a Symphony quintet, led by the school’s musician. The program culminates in late spring with Youth Concerts (April 26, 30, May 1 and 3). Musical concepts learned during the year come together during eight free interactive performances presented by the orchestra in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Youth Concerts allow students to see and hear their musician perform within an orchestra and also tie together all of the featured composers. Students gain a greater understanding of what makes these pieces similar and different, while discussing the different periods of music history and how the orchestra has developed over time.
Class Act concludes its season with Bravo Assemblies, where students have the chance to show off all they have learned in formats of their choosing: dance, music, theater, writing or visual art presentations. Through last year’s composer, Mozart, students in their Bravo assemblies recreated the form of his “Rondo Alla Turca” through different gestures for each section. Students also made connections to other subject areas showing Mozart’s life in relation to American history.
“The Bravo assemblies are the culmination of the Class Act year and definitely a highlight,” says Terry. “It is a school-wide assembly showing the musician what each class learned about the composer and theme through the program elements. Past Bravos have included musical performances, dancing, timelines, interpretive art and skits. It’s a chance for the whole school to work together and participate.”
This year, Class Act will serve students at 32 schools across 15 Orange County cities. The program is presented for a minimal charge to participating schools in cities countywide and has been recognized by the League of American Orchestras and National Endowment for the Arts as one of the nine most exemplary music education programs in the United States. The application process to be a Class Act school is competitive with a majority of program costs underwritten by funders.
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