The stage looked familiar.
White acoustic panels lined the back and sides, the musicians lined up in their usual spots – violinists up front, trombones over there, flutes over here, percussion in the back – with the all-in-black conductor front and center.
The audience, however, was less typical. As the Houston Symphony performed onstage at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Wednesday morning, an audience of Spring ISD 5th-graders looked on. While students might not be their typical crowd, the musicians of the Houston Symphony were excited to share the power of live music and arts education.
“Many of the students today are having their first orchestra experience at today’s concert,” said David Connor, Community Embedded Musician with the Houston Symphony. “And we are hoping that they will be able to hear all the different instruments in the orchestra, listen to a lot of diverse pieces of music and be able to follow along with this large group or musicians. I hope to encourage them to play music and, if they already do play, to continue to play music.”
Almost 3,000 students – every single 5th-grader in the district – attended the concert as part of Fine Arts Education Day. The musicians and staff of the Houston Symphony donated their time and talents, while the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion donated the use of its amphitheater as a venue. This allowed for all Spring ISD schools to attend the performance free of charge.
For Sam Gilbert, who teaches music at Bammel Elementary, the field trip is a perfect way to reflect what he teaches in class on a daily basis.
“Music has the power to unlock several ways to open up a student’s worldview,” Gilbert said. “I teach them this every single day in class. Playing an instrument like they see onstage can open the door to them going to other countries, or understanding where they are in the world and how to see other people’s worldviews.”
The program, which has been in place for about five years, not only allows 5th-grade students to attend a performance from the Houston Symphony and experience classical music, but also helps them to learn concert etiquette and other ways music applies to their daily life.
For Spring ISD Performing and Visual Arts Director Dr. Joe Clark, it’s a day he often describes as one his most-anticipated events of the school year.
“Every year, we look forward to our Fine Arts Education Day at the Pavilion,” Dr. Clark said. “To be able to provide this level of music-excellence for our 5th-grade students is the chance of a lifetime. Spring ISD is so fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with world-class organizations like the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. It takes all the work that our elementary music teachers do in the classroom and connects it to a world class stage they can see in real life.”
For more on the Spring ISD Performing and Visual Arts programs throughout the district, visit the district’s website.