2004 Bank of America Awardees

Dallas Symphony Orchestra's "Prelude Division" of the Young Strings Program

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's (DSO) Young Strings Program comprises three successive levels of instruction identified as Prelude, Overture, and Finale. The Prelude Division specifically serves 40-60 minority children, predominantly African-American and Hispanic, from ages 5-7. Hosted at three neighborhood school campuses, students attend 45-minute after-school classes twice a week, beginning in the spring semester of the kindergarten year and concluding with the fall semester of first grade. Students are guided to class after school, and parents are responsible for after-class transportation. Rather than offering string instruction, the goal of the Prelude Division is to offer in-depth music learning opportunities that prepare students for string study. Tied to both Texas state standards and Dallas Independent School District standards, the curriculum extends children's in-school music learning through singing, movement, and classroom performance. The two teachers who implement the curriculum are certified music educators and curriculum leaders in the Dallas schools, encouraging a link between in-school and after-school learning. The curriculum emphasizes rhythm and pitch-matching, and in the second semester notation reading skills in preparation for playing a string instrument are introduced. Students are selected for the program on the recommendations of their classroom teachers, according to criteria set by the school and the DSO's Education Department.

During the children's first semester of kindergarten, teachers are asked to observe traits such as readiness-to-learn, age-appropriate social skills, parental support, and musical aptitude. Of these, musical aptitude is the least important; rather, the program focuses on every child's ability to develop musical skills through sequenced instruction. Following teacher recommendation, parents or primary caregivers are required to nominate their own children, indicating why they believe their child should participate. This is a beginning indicator of family support-a factor the DSO considers crucial to the success of the program. During the Prelude experiences, children are assessed in areas such as attendance, participation, and skill development. Approximately 75% of the Prelude children move on to the Overture Division. At the conclusion of two semesters of Prelude, as they move to the Overture Division, children may indicate a preference of either violin or cello instruction. Attrition occurs naturally through choice not to continue, and by relocation. Prelude currently exists on three school campuses, with the hope of further expansion in the future. Schools are selected on the basis of minority populations, willingness to provide facilities, and indicators of cooperation within the parameters of the program as established by the DSO. There is no charge to children or schools for participation.

For more information, contact:
LeAnn Binford, Director of Education, Dallas Symphony Orchestra
214.871.4019
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InterSchool Orchestras of New York (ISO)

ISO is a non-profit organization that began in the early 1970s in response to the elimination of orchestra programs in New York City's schools. Its purpose is to provide ensemble opportunities for children who are learning to play orchestral instruments. Though the beginning emphasis for younger children is on string instruments, wind, brass and percussion players may also participate. A facet of conductors' job descriptions is to re-write parts to ensure the full ensemble participation of all children. Comprising five graduated ensembles and a chamber music program, ISO typically serves 140 children from ages 5 ½ to 12 in its beginner and intermediate-level ensembles. Children pay tuition; however, scholarship support is available to ensure that no child is ever denied participation because of inability to pay. ISO reviews evidence of need to ascertain scholarship eligibility. All ensembles meet after school on weekdays, and all perform publicly. Children must have begun lessons and must have some beginning-level reading ability in order to participate. They are screened to ensure placements that match both their musical and social needs; on occasion, parents may be encouraged to seek further instruction prior to the child's acceptance.

Based on a child-centered philosophy, effort is extended to ensure each child's success and to build confidence and joy in the social dimensions of ensemble playing in a context of strong musical artistry. An important aspect of ISO's work is the support of school music programs. Using a three-step process, ISO children's orchestras perform school assemblies for similarly aged children. If the school demonstrates interest and commitment in providing instrumental instruction for children, ISO staff will return for an Instrument Introduction Day that features demonstrations and hands-on experience on a variety of instruments. Assuming continued commitment by the school, ISO then assists the school in setting up instruction. ISO does not provide the program, but rather advises the school in areas such as identifying resources, providing instruments, locating teachers, and planning for ensemble experiences. This service is free of charge to the schools. ISO families all belong to a parents' association, which supports ISO's work through a variety of services, including membership on the ISO board. As an extension of its primary work, ISO also trains older students to serve as teachers for younger children in several in-school instrumental programs and offers opportunities for affiliations with composers.

For more information, contact: Ann McKinney, Executive Director
212.410.0370
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New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers' Program

Created by New York Philharmonic (NYP) bassist Jon Deak with the Philharmonic's Education Department in 1995, the Very Young Composers Program (VYCP) invites children from ages 8-10 into a creative relationship with the symphony orchestra. Mr. Deak believes it is imperative that orchestras connect with young children's innate creativity and nurture their original artistic expressions. Just as children may create works of visual art given the tools of painters, VYCP demonstrates what children can do given the tools of the composer, including access to professional performers. Twelve children are recommended for the program by principals and teachers in each of five schools, and there is no fee to the children or the schools. As an after-school program, the VYCP curriculum developed by Mr. Deak starts by assuming nothing about the students prior musical knowledge and moves from experimentation with recorders and keyboards through invented notation to fully-scored compositions. Each week, children are introduced to a different instrument of the orchestra. The following week, a musician brings that instrument to class and performs four notes the children were assigned to choose during the intervening days. A teaching artist and classroom teacher guide the children through extension, revision, and person-to-person interaction with musicians, resulting in scored compositions that are performed by the visiting instrumentalists, generally as an ensemble. Frequently, the finished works have parts for the children themselves to perform. Performances may occur in school or at community venues. On two occasions, children's compositions have been performed on NYP Young People's Concerts.

Occurring during 15 weekly sessions, VYCP is a child-centered program based on adults' listening to and respecting children's musical expressions rather than teaching them the tools of composition. Originally limited to one school per year, expansion to more schools has resulted in the training of teaching artists who implement the program under Mr. Deak's supervision. Teachers from the schools also participate in professional development. As NYP musicians have participated and learned more about VYCP, the orchestra has become increasingly sensitized to the importance of two inseparable facets of VYCP: 1) engaging children in creativity at an early age; and 2) building personal relationships with the orchestra and musicians. In addition, participating teachers have become increasingly aware of their own creative potential, sharing learning and discovery with their children, and sometimes creating their own works. Parents of participating children participate in twice-yearly workshops, learn more about the program through materials that are sent home, and attend rehearsals and performances.

For more information, contact:
Toya Lillard, Assistant Director of Education
212.875.5733
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