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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.

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.

High School Choral Students to Debut with Charlotte Symphony

Seven local high school choral students will experience the thrill of performing live with the Charlotte Symphony November 19-21, 2015 at Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

The concerts, which feature the Fauré Requiem, will mark the debut of the 2015-2016 Young Artists in Residence program, a new immersive choral initiative of the Charlotte Symphony Chorus.

Students who won auditions come from Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Gaston County schools and have spent the last two months rehearsing the Requiem weekly with the Charlotte Symphony Chorus. "It has been a pleasure to work with these fine young musicians," says Kenney Potter, director of choruses for the Charlotte Symphony. "This is a great opportunity for them to perform Fauré's choral masterwork in a professional-caliber setting with the Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Symphony Chorus."

Watch this video to hear what some of the Young Artists have to say about this unique experience.

The 2015-2016 Charlotte Symphony Chorus Young Artists in Residence are:
Jacob Dyksterhouse, bass, Stuart W. Cramer High School
Claire Houlihan, alto, Northwest School of the Arts
Hannah Keel, soprano, South Point High School
Matthew Noneman, bass, Providence High School
Trinity Sanford, soprano, Northwest School of the Arts
Stephenie Santilli, alto, Northwest School of the Arts
Nathalie Schlesinger, alto, Providence High School

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

Meet Kiffen Loomis

The 28th annual Youth Festival took place on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Belk Theater. This annual concert highlights the talents of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO), the Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO) and the grand-prize winner of the senior division of the Symphony Guild of Charlotte s annual Young Artists Competition.

This year's winner this year is Kiffen Loomis, who is 16 and lives in Asheville, NC. He's a pianist who's been playing since age five. Get to know this talented young man!

How were you introduced to the piano?
As a 3 and 4 year-old, I would sit under the piano as my older brother practiced. Hearing each hammer strike the string, and seeing his foot guide the pedal up and down fascinated me. By the age of 5, I was ready to crawl up from under the piano, and play it for myself.

Who is one performer you respect?
Glenn Gould is one of the most enthralling pianists of the last century. His attention to detail, in combination with his fearless interpretation of the hallmark works, demands great respect.

What piece would you love to perform?
Bach's Goldberg Variations carry with them a divine character, making them stunningly beautiful, yet daunting. I would love to study the work, but question whether I would ever be able to perform it. 

What other contests/awards have you won? 
I have won the North Carolina Symphony's Junior Kathleen Price and Joseph M. Bryan Youth Concerto Competition, the Winston-Salem Symphony's Peter Perret Youth Talent Search, the Hendersonville Symphony Young Artist Concerto Competition, the junior division of the Charlotte Symphony Guild's Young Artist Competition, and eight first-place awards at the statewide competitions hosted by the NCFMC.

What else we should know about you?
I serve as president of the Western North Carolina region of the Order of the Arrow, part of the Boy Scouts of America. I devote much of my time to promoting leadership development among those in my region, and serving the community as a whole. In addition to my BSA interests, I play on my high school's varsity tennis team.

I also lead an organization called Notes from the Soul. NFS is a group of student musicians from WNC who performed for over 2,000 children in elementary schools and after-school programs this year. The group exposes its listeners to different types of music and promotes musical interchange among the children and young adults who perform.

Do you know what you'd like to study in college? 
I would like to study Nuclear Physics while maintaining my piano studies. This summer I will be working in the TUNL Research Institute for Nuclear Physics at Duke University and hope to determine whether nuclear physics is indeed my calling.

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

Bringing the Gift of Music to Local Schools

At 10:15 on a Thursday morning, the orchestra classroom at Albemarle Road Middle School is filled with chatter. Small children, some holding very large instruments, wriggle in their seats as their teacher, Mr. Logan Hughes, interrupts class. They have a special delivery.

For months, the Charlotte Symphony's director of education, Chris Stonnell, has collected instrument donations from across the community, storing them in his office, having them inspected and repaired and ready for this moment. His car is packed with black music cases stacked on top of each other, protecting shiny trombones, cellos, violins, violas, and even a bass guitar and amps.

Car packed with donated instruments

Albemarle Road Middle School Principal Toni Perry says donations like this mean everything to the students. "We have some amazing students that want opportunities like this - to be in band and orchestra - and don't have the opportunity to do so because they can't get instruments," Perry says. "This [donation] is going to really grow our program and help us to be able to give our students the education they deserve."

Music teachers at Albemarle Road Middle School inspect donated instruments

Since April of 2012, the Charlotte Symphony has accepted community donations of unused or slightly damaged instruments, refurbished them to working order, and distributed them to local schools in need. Since Instruments for Kids began, we have donated approximately 65 instruments.  

Looking ahead, Albemarle Road's music instructors hope to start up Jazz and Pop bands and even a guitar program. This donation is helping to make these goals a reality.

Music teachers and Symphony staff join students holding donated instruments

Following the stop at Albemarle Road, Stonnell and School Programs Manager Phoebe Lustig made a second donation to Sugar Creek Charter School, providing the school its first eight instruments.

We are always grateful for instrument donations from the community and are in special need of full-sized stringed instruments. For more information on the Instruments for Kids program, click here.

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, Instruments for Kids.

Orchestra On Campus performance poster

Check out Central Piedmont Community College graphic design student Tyler Neal's creative design of our Orchestra On Campus performance poster! This annual concert will take place Wednesday, November 5 at Halton Theater. The theme of the program is "Mavericks of Sound," paying homage to musicians who broke ground in the music industry with their compositions.

"This is an awesome opportunity, to be a part of such an enriching experience for our community," says Neal.

Roger Kalia will conduct the Charlotte Symphony in this performance for a capacity crowd of CPCC students. For more information on our Orchestra On Campus partnership, click here.

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Education, orchestra on campus.

Meet Summer Intern Patrick Hoffman

I cannot remember a time when music was not part of my life, when it was not something that provided refuge from daily life. In one aspect or another it was always present, growing and developing until it became my passion and lifelong ambition. For many people music is not important to them, not because they dislike like it or because it fails to affect them, but because music was something that was inaccessible to them when they needed it.

I am very fortunate that I have been involved in music outreach programs since I started playing viola in middle school and, for this, I thank Charlotte Symphony.
Their outreach programs provided me with the opportunity to cultivate my musical interests and lit a flame of curiosity and desire to explore the complexities that music so effortlessly veils. These programs followed me from middle school at Piedmont Middle School to Northwest School of the Arts, and into Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. From work with coaches to private lessons and performances, I am incredibly lucky to have had such a close relationship with the Charlotte Symphony. In fact, I credit most of my success to working side by side with professionals throughout my adolescence; developing relationships, networks, and friends. It is such a privilege to work with kind and hardworking professionals who have made an impact such as Susan Blumberg, Cindy Frank, Deb Mishoe, Tom Burge, Sakira Harley, Carlos Tarazona, Leonardo Soto, Felicia Sink, Amy Whitehead, and Lori Tiberio.

Presently I am a sophomore at UNCG for Music Education and interning at the very place that gave me my start, Charlotte Symphony. Recently I was pleased to teach a class of about thirty elementary school students with the Freedom Schools program. My lesson was on the relationships and intersections between music and language. We explored deep into vocabulary, learned that expression can take many forms, and music can be translated many ways.  I also bridged these two concepts at the Winterfield Elementary summer program. By working side by side with symphony professionals and learning how they approach lessons, these musicians have grown to be like family. I am thrilled that I helped to meaningfully impact these students' life with music in the same way it has for me. 

Sometimes it feels a little odd that the program that I am now teaching I was only a student in not too long ago. I believe this goes to show that music can be a hobby or a creative outlet, but it certainly also is a career. Whether music selected me or visa-versa I will never really know, but I do know that my heart beats for all things music.

This post was written by Patrick Hoffman, Summer 2014 Education Intern  

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

Intern Spotlight – Charles Craig



Hometown?
Born in Chicago, raised in Rock Hill

Describe your Role with the CSO?
Education Intern.

(CSO Staff Note: Charles has been involved with numerous projects thus far in his internship but the largest has been designing and building the Teachers Guide for our Education concerts on April 2, 2014. This is the first time the Guide has been entirely online (thanks to our newly designed website!) and we couldn't be more pleased with the results of Charles' hard work. The response from the Teachers has been overwhelmingly positive!)

Where are you studying?
I'm a senior at Winthrop University, majoring in Music Composition with a Business minor. I will graduate in May 2014.

What are your plans after graduation?
Apply to NYU Steinhardt's Masters program in Film music at the end of 2014. In the meantime, work on projects already lined up around the Charlotte area and at Winthrop University.  

What would you eventually like to do?
Work with interactive media, perhaps as a Music Producer or in the Film Industry as a Film Composer.

What instruments do/have you played?
Several Bass, Piano and Trumpet. I played trumpet in marching band in High School.

What's your favorite part of volunteering with the CSO?
Engaging with musicians and regularly attending the concerts. It was really enjoyable to meet composer Dan Locklair and join the Recital Seminar students at Northwest School of the Arts in meeting him as well. 
Read more

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

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