NEW YORK—Third-fourth-and fifth-graders rocked out at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday with the Orchestra of St.Luke’s, as part of the revamped Weill Music Institute (WMI) School Program called "The Orchestra Rocks."
The WMI offers programs that provide schools around the world with curriculum for music classes. In the tri-state area (N.Y., N.J., Conn.) the program is called LinkUp!, it educates children on musical concepts like rhythm, tune and time.
“I think it’s fun, our teacher is strict, but it gets us to play good,” said one of the stage performers, Serena Matera, a fifth-grader. Matera has been playing the violin for two years now. Her father, also a musician, agreed that the kids play very well, considering their age.
This year, the LinkUp! Program celebrated its 25th year with students from the Washington Irving School in Tarrytown, N.Y. who played their flutes and violins alongside the professionals.
The 25th anniversary celebrations come at a time when schools around the country are facing massive budget cuts, in NYC alone 4,400 teachers will be laid off this year. Music education is especially hit hard by budget cuts as it is usually the visual arts, music, dance and theatre programs that are cut first.
For example, at a meeting held on April 19 and 20 the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents discussed the possibility of allowing seventh and eighth grade students to fulfill the one unit arts requirement by choosing one or two of the four programs, which might not include music.
Advocates such as the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) and others, however are largely opposed to such proposals which cut down on schools’ commitment to music education. Frequently cited research on music’s role in education points to beneficial effects music has on learning. According to a study published in Music Educators Journal by Steven J. Morrison, “Music enhances knowledge in the areas of mathematics, science, geography, history, foreign language, physical education, and vocational training."
Programs like LinkUp! give teachers the opportunity to engage students in activities “that can keep the kids busy and moving all the way through the year … all the way till the end of May which is important,” said Ann Winze, a strings teacher at the Washington Irving School. Teachers like Winze, however, will suffer layoffs because of the financial crisis. “I hope another district employs Ms. Winze,” said Mrs. Matera, hoping that other elementary school students will have the privilege to interact with Winze.
Host Tom Cabaniss and conductor Rossen Milanov together with Carnegie Hall employees, took the kids on a musical journey of clapping, singing, and stomping. Other children who participated in the LinkUP! program with their chaperones filled 2,800 seats in Carnegie’s Stern Auditorium. Children brought along their music instruments and joined in on cue from their seats.
A guest appearance by composer and DJ Mason Bates, brought a flare of rock to the orchestra, as he encouraged kids “to rock out.” Modern technology enables the blending of traditional orchestral music with a sounds made by digital samplers that can produce dramatic pieces that are used in movies such as Star Wars.
After Bates played his introductory piece, he noted “that was the first time there was clapping during an orchestral concert,” after which the kids giggled.