1500 elementary schoolers in the same ‘orchestra?’ Must be Link Up.

Jan 31, 2017

That shrill, joyful, high-pitched sound emanating from Belk Theater Thursday morning will be mistaken for no other: It's kids playing recorders. A lot of recorders. About 1500 of those little pipes that are used to teach children the first rudiments of music.

What are they doing? They are linking up.

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra will import every fourth-grader from Chester County and every fifth-grader from Lancaster County for a performance of "The Orchestra Moves." And moves is the operative word: South Carolina students will sing, tootle their flutes and move with the orchestra from their seats.

All music teachers from both counties attended workshops led by CSO education staff, learning how to integrate and teach the concert curriculum in their classrooms. Now they'll see their students in action in a mini-gala that includes dancers from UNC Charlotte, a recorder session led by CSO staffer Phoebe Lustig, and vocals by fellow staffer Chris Stonnell and students from Queens University and Northwest School of the Arts. Opera singer Jeff Braaten will do the "Toreador Song" from "Carmen," with the audience weighing in on the chorus.

Carnegie Hall created the Link Up program, which now serves more than 100 partner orchestras and 400,000 students around the world. Carnegie supplies curriculum guides, student workbooks, orchestral parts and online resources. In this case, the Springs-Close Foundation has underwritten the program for South Carolina.

"Through this partnership, our students are discovering a newfound interest and respect for symphonic music," says Alisha Green, district literacy coordinator for Chester County Schools. "Currently, we have a strings program. Now, students are asking for a band program as well! To have our students exposed to such a high-caliber group of musicians is an incredible honor."

The kids will listen to CSO assistant conductor Christopher James Lees, as well as a few musicians. More importantly, perhaps, they'll learn that music is as much fun to make as to hear even if you're not yet a master of your instrument.

By Lawrence Toppman, Charlotte Observer

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