Fifth-grade students from all of Anoka-Hennepin’s 24 elementary schools traveled to Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, over the course of three days, Feb. 28 and 29 and March 1, for a performance of “Peter and the Wolf.”
This was the first of three years such a large-scale field trip will have taken place.
The concert was part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Young People’s (YP) concert series. Students also heard excerpts from “The Mother Goose Suite” and “Hungarian Fantasy.”
Making the field trip extra special was the fact that the “Hungarian Fantasy” featured Austin Frohmader, a senior at Blaine High School. Frohmader won a piano competition that earned him the right to perform with the orchestra.
This opportunity came about because of a relationship Val Gutzman, a music specialist at Adams and Madison elementary schools, has with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Gutzman has been taking children to YP concerts for 14 years and was approached by Jim Bartsch, the Minnesota Orchestra director of education, who asked Gutzman if she would be interested in a district-wide partnership.
“I immediately said yes,” Gutzman said. “Upon asking the rest of my music colleagues, it was an unanimous decision to proceed and the grant process was started.”
The result of their work was to be the beneficiaries of a three-year grant awarded to the Minnesota Orchestra from the Hearst Foundation. The grant will pay for the fifth-grade students’ tickets and transportation for field trips over the next three years.
“This begins a partnership with the Minnesota Orchestra in their UPbeat initiative and outreach program,” Gutzman said. “Anoka-Hennepin is the latest metro school district involved in the UPbeat partnership program.”
The Anoka-Hennepin School District supported this endeavor by providing a legacy grant to allow the elementary music specialists to attend a teacher in-service.
Gutzman said they covered teaching strategies for the concert repertoire and information about the Minnesota Orchestra and Orchestra Hall itself. They also learned about inter-disciplinary curriculum connections.
Gutzman said an educational consultant Joanna Cortright wrote an excellent concert curriculum. The music specialists are using this curriculum in their classrooms to prepare the students for the concert.
As part of that curriculum preparation, Cortright and Gutzman worked together on a pilot program centering on critical listening skills.
The partnership between the Minnesota Orchestra and the school district was featured in a Minnesota Orchestra publication.
Bartsch said the Minnesota Orchestra is thrilled to launch the three-year UPbeat partnership with Anoka-Hennepin funded by the Hearst Foundation and supported additionally by the district.
“This program thrives thanks to the dedication of school district administrators and teachers like Val Gutzman,” Bartsch said. “She and other leaders are laying the groundwork for students to have unforgettable experiences at Orchestra Hall that tie in directly with their work in the classroom.”
Attending a performance by a professional music organization gives students a real world connection to the skills and concepts being explored in the general music classroom, Gutzman said.
“This experience, which cannot be approximated in any other way, is of unique educational value especially to young musicians,” she said. “Many of our children would not be able to ever attend a concert of this magnitude and having this educational opportunity is terrific.
“I am so excited about this three-year partnership. There are so many possibilities with how it can grow and expand into new and unique educational experiences for the students and staff as the years unfold.”