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A thank you to arts educators, from CSO Musicians

This week we're celebrating Arts in Education Week, a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. As professional musicians, Principal Clarinetist Taylor Marino and horn player Andrew Fierova have been profoundly affected by their music education. We asked them to share their stories. 


Taylor Marino, Principal Clarinetist:

"Having grown up in Charlotte, I owe this city and its music educators a great deal of gratitude for supporting me and inspiring me to pursue a musical life, which ultimately led me back home to be a part of the Charlotte Symphony. 

My middle school band director at South Charlotte Middle School, Carl Ratliff, had a profound influence on me and taught me to pursue excellence, stay focused, and enjoy the beauty that music has to offer. I think of him often, and his great playing and musicianship as a saxophonist was inspiring as well.
At Providence High School, my band director Paul Jackson was an incredible man with a work ethic and drive like I had never seen before. Even while battling cancer, he showed up to rehearsal every day and gave every ounce of energy to the music. His devotion and commitment has stuck with me forever and even though he very tragically passed away 8 years ago, his passion and love of music lives on every day in myself and all the students he influenced. 

My private clarinet teachers, Jim Ruth and Michael Hough were also very important figures in my life. Jim Ruth started me on clarinet at the Music and Arts store and taught me great fundamental exercises that jump started my proficiency in music. Michael Hough, who is band director at Providence Day School and plays with the symphony often, really fine-tuned my playing and prepared me for the rigorous journey that a life in music would be. 

I am beyond grateful to be back in my hometown sharing music with the community that has given me such wonderful musical support."

Andrew Fierova, Horn:

"Music was an important part of my public schooling from elementary through high school in South Carolina's School District 6. It led me to discover a love of performing that set me on my current career path. I loved singing with our elementary school chorus, especially when the songs had corresponding motions. My second elementary school provided the opportunity to join a recorder ensemble, where I learned my first wind instrument. When I got to middle school, I started learning the horn. Band in middle school provided a confidence booster, as I found something that I was truly good at. This helped me to succeed in the rest of school and also find my friend group.

Dorman high school had a very well-supported music program and nice facilities. I was given the opportunity to perform in multiple ensembles, from orchestra to jazz band, as well as outside opportunities like honor bands. These continued opportunities solidified my desire to become a performer.  Without the amazing band directors that helped me along the way, I would not be a member of the Charlotte Symphony today!" Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Education, Musicians.

Celebrating Arts in Education Week

This week we're celebrating Arts in Education Week, a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. To learn more about the positive effect music education has on students, we caught up with Crystal Briley, a music teacher at University Park Creative Arts School.


How were you introduced to music as a child?
I grew up in a musical household -- one where many of my memories are tied to singing together at family gatherings. Music was a natural influence in my life. While many others were outside playing games or riding bicycles, I was learning piano or singing various songs my family had taught me. I am extremely grateful I was able to have the experience of private lessons and that my natural gifts leaned towards music.
My experience is not like those of many of my students and this is what leads my teaching -- that every student deserves an exemplary arts education even if they cannot have private lessons to receive it.

How do the CSO's Education programs help you to achieve that?
Many of my students have never been exposed to the arts outside of our classroom or their own home. The partnership with the CSO through the Link Up program and other various educational programs has offered our students the opportunity to see real life musicians and given me a way to introduce my students to classical music in an accessible and relevant way. When students step foot into the concert hall and hear the insistent call of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or sing along with the eerily forceful O Fortuna from my education mentor, Carl Orff, it does not go over their heads -- it settles deep within them. They experience the music in the classroom and then bring their 'practice' to the hall and go home forever changed. Our time with the CSO is one of the more requested things we do ... "when do I get to play with the CSO at Link Up?" I must admit, the experience of listening to over 1000 students play recorder together with the CSO is an experience very hard to replicate!

Do you have any specific memories of music inspiring or affecting one of your students?
Many of my students have been inspired by music. But one really strikes my mind. We were sitting in class one day learning the recorder parts to The New World Symphony melody. It is a simple theme and one which I thought would be lost on my students. We had spent time working on the piece through listening, playing, and movement. It was finally at the time where I asked them to reflect on what this music meant to them personally. Her response was one that I will never forget. "This music makes me calm. When everything around me seems crazy, I can listen to this song and find peace." When a child can bring such wisdom to a simple and haunting melody, I find that I too am inspired.

Why do you think it's important to keep the arts in school?
We can talk about how the arts are important to our student's education or to our economy and industry. But it is Suzuki who said, "teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music ... and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart." At a time where the social emotional well-being of all humans is at stake, we must take care to teach students to have beautiful hearts.

Link Up 2017
Our students need a place to safely express themselves and we, as their teachers, are the ones who can provide the pathways for them to do this. What better place than the arts classroom to provide this creative and imaginative space? Beautiful hearts are at stake!

What inspires you to teach?
I pursued a career in opera before teaching-- I still love singing and listening to the genre but my heart is with my students. I absolutely love teaching and it is hardly a "job" to me. Through all the difficulties, there is nowhere else I'd rather be. My students give me such joy and they are the reason I get up and go to work every day -- even if it is in a crazy virtual space! Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, interview.

Education Goes Virtual


Planning a school year full of informational, diverse, and engaging music education programs can be challenging in a normal year, but as school instruction has moved online, Charlotte Symphony musicians and members of the education team went into overdrive -- adapting content that teachers, students, and families can access virtually. 

"The biggest challenge is the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it very hard to plan ahead," said Director of Education & Community Engagement Chris Stonnell. "The way we've planned and structured our year in the past is all out the window, which has been a hard adjustment."

But Stonnell would rather focus on the opportunity for innovation, and what he and his team can offer this year. Since last spring, they've been testing out various virtual programs -- a trial run to help them determine what the CSO can offer on a wider scale this school year. 

Students in grades K-5 will have access to Musician Informances -- a 30-minute interactive program with CSO musicians that blend live musical performances with discussions about their instruments.


Students in grades K-2 can experience CSO Associate Concertmaster Kari Giles and pianist/composer Leonard Mark Lewis join together virtually for an engaging performance of solo violin selections culminating with the famous children's book Ferdinand the Bull told through both words and music. 

CSO musicians are also eager to connect with aspiring student musicians by providing invaluable feedback directly through Zoom or other video platforms. These virtual coaching sessions are available either as a 1-on-1 or in a master-class format, where the CSO musician works with an individual student while the rest of the class observes, and learns techniques to apply to their own playing. 


Stonnell's plans for the future are ambitious. "Right now we are ready to go with programs that send individual musicians into virtual classrooms, but are working on ways to make ensemble performances, and even full CSO educational concerts, accessible virtually -- so stay tuned!" Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

Congratulations to our CSYO Grads!

Although we weren't able to gather together for our final concert, we still want to honor our graduating seniors by acknowledging their accomplishments, and thanking them for their dedication to the Youth Orchestra. 

In the video below Christopher James Lees, Principal Conductor of the Youth Orchestra Program, highlights each graduating student's achievements and gives them the opportunity to talk about what they love about the program, and where they are headed after graduation.

Best of luck to our 2020 graduates, we're so proud of you!

Read more

Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, CSYO, Education.

Educating from a distance

During this time of social distancing, our Education & Community Engagement team and Youth Orchestra Programs team have been hard at work creating and adapting content that teachers, students, orchestra members, and families can access from their homes.



As school instruction has moved to online classrooms, so have our musicians. They're providing virtual instrument coaching to students in local schools. In this Zoom meeting students, teachers, and CSO musicians follow along with the music as a violin student from Northwest School of the Arts performs solo.

Musicians and members of the staff have also participated in coaching and career panels, answering student's questions about what it's like to be a professional musician and what their career options are, both onstage and off. These panels are funded by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council. 



Our Youth Orchestra's 2020-21 season auditions are complete! Everyone adapted quickly to conduct virtual auditions for over 200 students over the course of four days. 



The rehearsals must go on! Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion players from the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra get together virtually to check-in, discuss their music, and see familiar faces again.



Youth Philharmonic conductor Jessica Morel recorded lectures on Brahms and Beethoven, covering everything from the composers' childhood, personalities, and most famous pieces. 



In lieu of the special shout-outs they would have received at their final concert, Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees recorded special videos for the seniors, thanking them for their commitment to the program and sharing their plans for next year. 



For in-home learning, musical coloring pages and word searches are available at #CSOatHome, in addition to a series of virtual Education Concerts that include digital guides paired with audio playlists. Teachers and parents can choose the elements that best meet their needs to introduce young learners to classical repertoire. The program themes cover everything from fairy tales to math concepts and take participants on journeys into outer space and backwards through time. 

The Charlotte Symphony's staff and musicians are eager to find even more ways to stay connected with our community and provide educational resources during this time. Keep checking #CSOatHome for more content. Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

14 years of passion for arts education & outreach with Chris Stonnell



Chris Stonnell, Director of Education and Community Engagement for your Charlotte Symphony, has a long history with, and passion for, the arts in Charlotte. We sat down with Chris to learn more about why he chose this profession, and to find out what's next for education and community engagement at the CSO.


Chris, you've been working for the Charlotte Symphony longer than anyone else on staff. What was your path to the CSO?
I started working as a chorus and drama teacher in Cabarrus County where I grew up. I spent a little over 4 years teaching in public schools but found myself getting a little burned out from the grind. I loved the teaching part of it - the rewards of seeing the finished product - but didn't enjoy the classroom management, the paperwork, the endless meetings. I knew there had to be something else I could do with my knowledge of the arts and education so I took a chance and quit my job - three months before getting married.

Wow. And how did your significant other react to that?
Well, she still married me!

So, what came next?
Either through luck or divine intervention the School Programs Manager position opened up at the CSO! I started in January of 2006 and haven't looked back.

What changes have you seen in the Charlotte community through your years here?
It just continues growing; and with it so does the diversity of the community! The CSO has really been responding to all of this growth. We're reaching new populations and our community outreach has really taken off in the last few years.
Healing Hands performance
We're now able to go out into the community more instead of mainly presenting concerts in uptown Charlotte.

Is that important?
Yes! It shows that we value our community. Music should not be a luxury; it should be accessible for everyone. 

That's a beautiful idea. Do you think the CSO's community programs are having that effect?
We're really starting to see the long-term successes of programs that we've been doing for a while. I was around for the very beginning, when Project Harmony started at Winterfield Elementary. We've had some success creating a pipeline for students from there to Northwest School of the Arts through to our Youth Orchestras.


Project Harmony students
And it's all about providing that pipeline, because down the road, we'd love to see our community reflected onstage. It's difficult because it all comes down to access. If you don't start playing an instrument until middle school you're already at a disadvantage to those that could afford private lessons at an earlier age. The idea is trying to help bridge that gap. 

What's next for education and community engagement at the CSO?
I'd like to see us take the successful programs that we have and expand upon them - deepen their impact. I also want to look at other areas of the community that we haven't reached yet. We're starting to look into sensory friendly concerts. Again, it's about accessibility. Coming uptown at night to sit in an assigned seat for 2 plus hours in a darkened theater can be challenging for patrons with disabilities, but there's no reason why they shouldn't have access to be able to experience the CSO.

So, what do you do when you're not sharing classical music with the world?
I really like singing and acting in community theatre shows, but when you work in the arts, Friday and Saturday nights are when the magic happens, so it's hard to find time for my own performances! I also enjoy sports; I go to a lot of Panthers games. I'm also a proud Appalachian State University grad, so I've been really happy with their success in football. I also really like movies - especially scary ones! 

Then I have to ask, which horror movie score would you like to hear the CSO perform?
Oh, that's tough. I'd have to say Psycho. The score is great - I'd love to hear that played by the CSO! 

Well, we'll have to try to make that happen! Thanks so much for allowing us to get to know you a little better.
Any time. Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, interview.

Side-by-Side: Concertmasters



We sat down with longtime Charlotte Symphony Concertmaster Calin Lupanu and Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Concertmaster Victor Chu, a senior at Providence Day School. Here, they dish about this important role, from onstage pressures to having the best seat in the house!


Calin, you've had this job for over 15 years. What's the best part about being Concertmaster?
CL: The responsibility that comes with the job. Personally, I love it. I embrace pressure. I also love interacting with my colleagues, getting to play solos, and working with great conductors and soloists. 

And the best part for you, Victor? You're much newer to this. 
VC: To be honest, I'm a pretty quiet guy. But this process -- becoming a more confident leader -- has been the best part. I still remember the first time I had to tune with Conductor Christopher James Lees. In addition to walking me through his process, he was fixing my posture and teaching me how to address the different people in the orchestra. The icing on the cake? The concertmaster seat has a great view!

Can you recall a moment of terror on stage? Any memorable faux pas?  
CL: One happened when our Music Director, Christopher Warren-Green, auditioned for the CSO job. During the dress rehearsal, with an audience in the hall, my bridge (the little wooden thing that holds the strings) collapsed! I managed to give the violin to my stand partner, and took a colleague's violin and kept playing. But...it's virtually impossible to have success, without experiencing failure. 

VC: There was one time that the first violin section kept messing up and I had just nailed it on the last run-through. Mr. Lees asked me to play it as an example. Everyone went silent. I started playing and it was suddenly SO OUT OF TUNE. To this day, I still don't know how that could have happened.

What do you do right before a concert? Any rituals?
CL: I try to focus and relax. I try to get ready mentally and enjoy it at the same time. 

VC:  Mostly I think, "You're not walking weird. It just feels weird because people will be watching." Even basic things like walking just don't feel the same when so many strangers are staring at you!

Calin, other than practicing and mastering the violin technique, what advice do you have for Victor? 
CL: Moving forward always and most importantly, learning from your experiences. 

Victor, what are your plans? Pursuing the stage as a career? 
VC: My current plan is to explore Computer Science this fall in college. But don't worry, I'll still spend my fair share of time in the practice room!

Read more

Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, concertmaster, CSYO, interview.

Justice's Journey

Justice Crawford is making a musical name for himself.

His mother, a psychologist and one-time flutist, has played in orchestras and knew she wanted her children to be exposed to music. "I've always had an appreciation for what music can do for the mind and for a person's spirit in general," says Endora Crawford. "It's always been my plan for my kids to dabble in music."

But Justice is doing more than just dabbling. This talented 8th grader is one of the first two students from the Charlotte Symphony's
Winterfield Youth Orchestra program (now part of Project Harmony), covered in The Charlotte Observer in 2014 for his successful audition and admission into Northwest School of the Arts.

Maybe music helped ground Justice. His father served as a U.S. Naval Officer for 23 years, so he was born in Japan and spent many of his younger years in Hawaii. When his parents divorced, his mother moved the boys from Hawaii to Charlotte, landing in the Winterfield neighborhood. The family then moved to south Charlotte, where he is now an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Justice recently took his musical next step: auditioning for the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra.

Of the new group, in which Justice plays viola, Ms. Crawford says, "It's good to push him." Following his little bit of fame, she adds, she noticed an increased seriousness from her son--that people were noticing him, so they would be counting on him. "For the seating auditions, we could tell he was physically nervous," she says. "But that just meant that he knows it was important, and I love that. It shows that he was really taking it to heart."

Joining JYO also has given Justice a heightened level of discipline, Ms. Crawford says. "He's learning the expectation that you're going to play your best ... and practice harder, because others are now relying on you." Like any sport, an orchestra makes you part of a team. And Justice is playing his part.

So what's next for this budding violist? Ms. Crawford says she and her son have talked about career choices and this lover of math says his top choices are to become an Intellectual Property attorney or go into cyber security. As for music, Ms. Crawford says, "The plan is to play music as long as he'd like to continue to play."


Come support Justice and the dozens of other talented young musicians in JYO at an upcoming concerts. Read more

Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, CSYO, Education, Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

Music Opens Doors


Brianna Davis loves playing the flute. This budding young musician, and graduate of our Winterfield Youth Orchestra (now Project Harmony) after-school program, is now a thriving sixth grader, playing in the band at Northwest School of the Arts.

"I have more freedom and I can choose my electives," Brianna says about her new school. "And I get to play harder songs."

And she isn't alone. Brianna is one of seven students from our Winterfield program who have graduated from the eastside school, and been accepted by audition into Northwest, the Charlotte area's only middle and high school arts magnet.

One of our core education programs, Winterfield has engaged second through fifth grade students in free weekly music instruction for six years. Students learn to play strings, woodwinds, brass, or percussion from our own musicians and other local artists.

Three times a year, Winterfield students, teachers, parents, orchestra musicians, and the surrounding community members gather to enjoy the student performances. A community meal follows each concert. We are proud that our Winterfield Youth Orchestra helps build this community through the shared love of music-making.

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green was able to meet and congratulate young Brianna during a recent visit to Winterfield Elementary, where he was conducting the full orchestra in a free community festival.

When asked about her favorite part about band, Brianna says, "Well, there is this girl, and she has a hard time, but she is better now because I help her."

Future Charlotte Symphony flutist? You never know. Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, Project Harmony, winterfield elementary.

In the Community: Bucket Band

The CSO recently partnered with the Arts & Science Council for Culture Blocks, a community partnership designed to bring the arts into diverse communities in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.

Every Tuesday evening until August 23, the Charlotte Symphony will offer FREE Bucket Band, a fun and interactive hands-on percussion class at Ivory/Baker Recreation Center.
Check out the class in action:
 

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education.

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