On April 28, nearly 300 students from seven schools across Cape Cod will gather at Cape Community College’s Tilden Arts Center for a unique, and highly interactive, musical experience. Through Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program facilitated by the Cape Conservatory, children will not only be able to see and hear a live Cape Symphony concert, under the direction of Jung-Ho Pak, but they will actually be part of it, singing and playing recorder from their seats in the audience.
The concert, which takes place at 1 PM, is open only to participating students and their teachers and to other elementary school music teachers, who may be interested in participating in Link Up in the future.
Though the concert is not open to the public, it serves a very important purpose: to give young students, most in grades 3 to 5, the experience of being part of an orchestra and to inspire them to sing or take up an instrument, thus recruiting the next generation of musicians.
Link Up is an innovative program offered locally by the Cape Conservatory. Created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI), the program is designed to link local orchestras with the community, with local schools, and with educators. The Conservatory has partnered with Carnegie Hall to offer the Link Up curriculum and concert production materials free to participating schools. During the 2018-2019 school year, the program is being implemented by more than 110 partner orchestras and 450,000 students and teachers in schools across the nation and around the world, including such countries as Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Japan and Spain.
“Link Up has created an excellent year-long music curriculum for arts organizations, such as the Cape Conservatory, that may not have the resources to create such a program on their own,” said Kyle Spraker, principal trumpet for the Symphony, a teaching artist at Cape Conservatory, and Director of Community Outreach and Education for both organizations. Organizations may choose among four different curricula.
“The Conservatory chose ‘The Orchestra Swings’ curriculum this year,” said Spraker. “All of the Cape Cod students have been learning about music that is inspired by jazz and the cross-pollination of orchestra music with jazz. They will be singing and playing on recorders the music of composers who wrote in both genres, such as Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin.”
Highlights of the concert include Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” variations, Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” and Bernstein’s “Mambo” from West Side Story.
Through the repertoire, students investigate the concepts of rhythm, form, improvisation, and communication, and how they all contribute to “swing,” that elusive, but unmistakable feeling that results when musicians are deeply tuned into each other and playing in sync, or “in the pocket.”
Joining the orchestra onstage will be the Conservatory’s jazz band, CJazz, directed by Bart Weisman, with vocal soloist Mary George. “The band, a mix of students and professional musicians, will be playing side-by-side with the Cape Symphony at this concert and their participation is integral to it,” said Spraker. “The idea is that younger students in the audience will see students who are just a little bit older than they are playing with the Symphony and they will be inspired to joinband, choir, or orchestra programs.”
Teachers are given flexibility in how they implement the program. They may teach their students a couple of pieces or the whole curriculum. “Teresa Jazo, of the Mullen-Hall School in Falmouth, is teaching her students every song, even some of the optional, more difficult versions,” said Spraker.
Sarah Jane Mason, instructor of music and wellness at the Latham Centers, a residential school in Brewster for students with complex special needs, is also making full use of the program. Though only eight students, those in the school’s Latham Stars on Stage performing arts club, will be participating in the concert. All 45 students in the school have been working on the Link Up program, and Mason has expanded on the curriculum, adding supplementary materials on, for instance, the life of Duke Ellington, or how jazz came to be in New Orleans.
“For many of our students, this is their first exposure to the symphony and to jazz,” said Mason. “The program offers amazing materials for the students, and Kyle is fantastic to work with. He makes adaptations so that all kids can participate equally.”
The school has participated in the Conservatory’s other educational programs: The Young People’s Concerts, Jazz in the Schools, and Music Memory. “It can be very challenging, and our students may have to work three or four times as hard as other students, but they are very enthusiastic and won first place in their Music Memory category last year,” Mason said. “Music therapy helps our students learn social skills along with fine- and gross-motor skills.”
“The whole idea behind this program is to inspire students to sing or pick up an instrument and join their school band, choir, or orchestra program. It has been amazing for us to connect with educators and their students across the Cape. I am hopeful the concert will be an exciting and memorable experience.” said Spraker.
“Right after the concert, we are hosting an instrument petting zoo at the Conservatory, which is across the street from the venue. Students will be able to see and try many of the instruments they heard during the concert,” Spraker said.
Link Up was established in 2003 to help students explore orchestral repertoire and fundamental music skills, including creative work and composition, through a year-round, hands-on music curriculum. Through the program, Carnegie Hall offers, at no cost, extensive high-quality resources for teachers and students, professional development resources, and ongoing support and consultation. The Cape Symphony & Conservatory and other partner orchestras manage the program for schools and present the culminating interactive concerts and provide local support to participants.
For more information about Link Up, visit https://www.carnegiehall.org/Education/Educators/Link-Up. For more information about Cape Conservatory’s Link Up program, visit https://www.capeconservatory.org/cape-conservatory-link-up.asp.