Arizona ArtBeat: Phoenix Symphony & Music Education

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Symphony for the Schools and Classroom Concerts are two programs The Phoenix Symphony sponsors to instill an appreciation for music in a new generation of concert-goers. Learn more about the Symphony’s music education and outreach efforts with Resident Conductor Joseph Young.

Ted Simons: On tonight's "Arizona art beat," how the Phoenix symphony is reaching out to a younger generation. As David Majure reports, one successful program takes the symphony to valley schools.

David Majure: Students at Archway Veritas Charter School in Phoenix file into the cafeteria turned concert hall.
Mark: Good morning! I'm mark and I play the Viola with the Phoenix symphony.
David Majure: These third, fourth and fifth graders are being treated to a performance by Phoenix Symphony Musicians.

Mark: Unfortunately we couldn't bring in the whole orchestra but brought about half of our string players with us. Because if we brought the whole orchestra, there wouldn't be room for you guys. The theme is the science of sound.

David Majure: The symphony's classroom concerts of a mixture of entertainment and education.

Mark: The cause of all sound is vibration. I'm going to turn the speaker up now. I left a space so air can get in. Now when I turn that on, look how windy it gets.
I need three more volunteers who have not been up here yet.
David Majure: The programs vary depending on the age of the students and instruments featured. But the goal is always the same.

Mark: The point is to get music into our community. We have one more piece to play for you today. And then we're done. To reach kids who might be hard to reach because of the difficulties coming down to symphony hall or economic issues.

David Majure: The concert series is made possible by private donations and public grants and contributions for the schools, an investment in a new generation of concert goers. [Applause]

Ted Simons: Classroom concerts, special performances for schools at symphony hall, and the family concert series all fall under the leadership of Joseph Young, the symphony's resident conductor. I recently spoke with Young about these outreach programs. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."
Joseph Young: No problem.
Ted Simons: What are we talking about here? Music, education and outreach program for kids?

Joseph Young The Phoenix symphony really caters to a wide variety of patrons and one of the things I'm ahead of is our education programs and our family series and this year we're trying to do something a little different with our family series. Our family series is focusing on literacy. So every -- or literature, so every concert has a book tied to it. And it's more of a shared experience for families. I think of families can -- can share the book with their kids before coming to the program and then get a really different experience with having a symphony orchestra perform some of these books with live music. Some people -- kids may think that, you know, classical music is daunting and we're going to -- music is daunting and we're doing a show called "Dr. Seuss" and when you hear "green eggs and ham" played as an opera. But when you put it to something familiar like "green eggs and ham, it changes the experience. We're trying to give them something new and traditional.

Ted Simons: You mentioned opera, is it something more like a play.

Joseph Young: That one, Dr. Seuss is going to be more like a opera. We have a soprano and we have Beethoven which is more of a play about Beethoven's life and that the concert, hear about his life but also here -- you hear excerpts from his symphonies or concertos and they're exposed to Beethoven and not knowing it through a play.

Ted Simons: How do you keep these kids attention? How do you know when you've got them and when you might be losing them?

Joseph Young: Kids are the easiest audience to read. When they start to get a little loud in the audience, we know we're losing them. But we try to keep most of our pieces short. Four or five minutes and try to capture them that way. We also give them example what is we're playing before we play the whole piece so we want them to listen to the Oboe, who may sound like a rooster crowing. We tell them about that before. What we're trying to do with our family series is to create something new and traditional and combining them to keep the kids' attentions.

Ted Simons: In baseball games, they say - an inning per year. A two-year-old is going to last about two innings, a five-year-old is going to last maybe five innings. How long do these pieces last as far as Symphony is concerned?

Joseph Young: We can play a whole symphony for an hour, but we wouldn't do that to kids.
Ted Simons: Yeah.
Joseph Young: We keep it about four or five minutes.

Ted Simons: Talk about your background. How long have you been in Arizona with the Phoenix symphony?

Joseph Young: I've been with the Phoenix symphony for a year and four months, before this year, I was considered the assisting conductor and this season, I was promoted to the resident conductor.

Ted Simons: What's the difference there?

Joseph Young: The difference is I get more conducting responsibilities, I'm doing a lot with the pop series and the family series and the education series and they also gave me a classics performance as well.

Ted Simons: When did the classic bug hit you? Was it aa-ha moment?

Joseph Young: I started playing trumpet at the age of 12 but didn't see a orchestra until I was 16. And when I saw that orchestra, I was hooked. I told my parent, I want it be a conductor at 16. So really focused from that age on that this is what I wanted to do. And so I think that's why it's important that I'm in the education part of the orchestra because we're hitting kids at the age of kindergarten and to have a kid come up and say I want to play the harp at kindergarten, and have that opportunity. I didn't have that opportunity. So to be a part of their life and have them experience this is really important to me.

Ted Simons: And that visceral thing when the orchestra hits and they're all doing that, is that what hit you, A, and B, do you see it hitting the kids?

Joseph Young That's what hit me, the sheer sound of a orchestra, it changed me. I -- orchestra, it changed me. Recording is pretty daunting to most, but when you go in an auditorium and see an orchestra and see the teamwork, that gives you a whole different experience and that's the experience that got me, and when I do these education concerts and bring them into the halls, I see it
hit a lot of kids and I feel it's important for me to reach out even for. They keep my energy up when I see them smiling while we're playing.

Ted Simons: For folks who say never mind the kids, for adult, it's too much work, too difficult to understand and if you don't understand it, it's hard to appreciate it. How do you respond?

Joseph Young: For me, the orchestra caters to everyone. We're playing pop music and music from Broadway and people who think that classical music may be daunting, there are times when where music is not supposed to be understood and that's ok. There are times when conductors are explaining what the composer's intentions were before we play a piece. If it's daunting, sometimes there's a way out of it. Sometimes there's a way to -- to just close your eyes and just enjoy it. So sometimes there's just music for sheer enjoyment and I think that's the biggest thing for me. The first time I hear something, it's about enjoyment. The second time, what's the intention of -- of the music.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Joseph Young: So I think -- I think everyone should be giving the orchestra a chance.

Ted Simons: Last question: And I love to ask this of classical folks. There's so much to choose from. Is there a -- desert island. A favorite piece -- all-time favorite piece of music. Number one on the hit parade?

Joseph Young: Number one of the hit parade - I would say Prokofiev's fifth symphony that's fun and dramatic and lighthearted and has everything.

Ted Simons: Prokofiev's fifth symphony - Someone checks it out and just listen to it. Don't try to make any sense?

Joseph Young: Don't try to make sense of it. You'll hear a big sound but also a lot of fun that happens in that piece as well.

Ted Simons: Family series starts when?

Joseph Young: We have our first family series a weekend in December with our holiday family series.

Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you here and thanks for joining us.

Joseph Young: Thanks for having me.

Joseph Young:Phoenix Symphony, Resident Conductor;

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