Seattle Symphony - ACCESS project

Artistic and Cultural Community Engagement with Seattle Symphony


The Seattle Symphony sought to:

  • Expand audience base to reflect the demographics of the community,
  • Sustain community partnerships,
  • Create interdisciplinary pathways to the arts,
  • Increase understanding and appreciation of the relationships among musical genres,
  • Provide resources for people to deepen relationships with symphonic music and musicians,
  • Feature artists of color.

The Access project developed as an initiative of the Community Engagement Council consisting of Seattle Symphony board members and prominent members of the Asian, Latino, and African American communities throughout the region. The Access project was launched as an integral component of the Seattle Symphony's Centennial Season and was geared to be a core business practice.

How it grew:

The pilot program, Music as Storyteller, began in the 2000-01 season with partnerships in several public school fifth grade classes. The initial season developed curriculum with Humanities and Language Arts teachers, established teaching artist residencies, and held an arts in education concert.

The following season, Music as Storyteller expanded to all fifth grade students attending Seattle Public Schools and was also presented to 6,000 pre-school children in all Seattle Public Library Branches. The second season also saw development and implementation of "Science of Sound" Curriculum, an increase in community concerts, and featured SPHINX artists in concerts and schools.

The project continued to expand in 2003-04 during the Seattle Symphony's Centennial Season with the official launch of the ACCESS project featuring SPHINX award winner Gareth Johnson as guest artist. The project has continued in 2005-06 with additional concerts including 10 free community concerts featuring SPHINX award winner Christina Castelli. Concerts are held in public schools and inner city performance spaces such as the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, taking music to the students.

The outcome from those affected:

"This workshop [for our Librarians] delivered MORE than I could have expected! Key outcomes were: the librarians were challenged to think and behave differently, and to check their own fears about learning new things. Also, very practical, useable tips and demonstrations. Quality programming workshop! Thanks." -Chance Hunt, Director of Children's Programming at the Seattle Public Library

"Thanks for the concert. After school today, a student whom I never met knocked on my door to tell me how inspired he was from the concert. He said he wanted to play violin after seeing the young soloist [Gareth Johnson]. He [the student] used to play sax but quit in elementary school and now he wants to get back into music. He also showed me his gifts on piano and drums and hung until 4:00pm after school. The concert today was a landmark in this child's life. Thanks." -Nuc Vega, Music Teacher at Aki Kurose Middle School

For videos of the ACCESS project in action, click below:
Video 1
Video 2

This program received the League of American Orchestras 2006 MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement. See summary here.

For Further Info Contact:
Seattle Symphony