Muskegon, Michigan, April 2, 2017 – Wednesday April 12, downtown Muskegon will bustle with activity as the 1726-seat Frauenthal Theater is filled to capacity three times over in back-to-back concerts featuring over 4600 fourth-graders from area schools.
West Michigan Symphony (WMS) is participating in its 13th year of bringing Link Up to its current count of 54 area schools in six local counties. Since 2004, over 46,000 area children have participated in the WMS Link Up program, which culminates each year with a live performance where students have the opportunity to sing and play the recorder along with the orchestra. This performance often serves as students’ first concert experience and provides them with the opportunity to apply the musical concepts they have studied in the yearlong Link Up program.
Produced with significant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Carnegie Hall’s Link Up pairs orchestras across the country with schools in their local communities, inviting students to learn about orchestral repertoire through a hands-on music curriculum.
In 2008 the WMS sensed a need for a deeper in-school connection so they created the Music Mentor Program to accompany the Link Up curriculum. Piloted with 10 schools and one musician, the program was designed to bring professional musicians from the orchestra into the schools so the children could meet them, and teachers could benefit from the additional classroom support. One teacher commented, “One of the highlights of the Link Up program is our music mentor visits. Real musicians from the symphony are paired with our school and make the symphony personal. They not only play their instruments for my students, but they answer real-life questions about what it’s like to be in a symphony and provide many fun learning experiences. When it’s time for the concert, my students are looking on stage for their mentor.”
Initially funded by private and public gifts; in 2013 the NEA added a 3-year grant of $10,000 per year, which helped grow the program. Supported by ongoing gifts and grants, school visits have increased 840% since the program’s inception, this season engaging seven musicians who visit over 46 schools, making over 90 visits to West Michigan schools.
West Michigan Symphony is one of more than 90 national and international organizations chosen for the Link Up music education program. The symphony’s associated Music Mentor program is a special addition to Link Up, creating an atmosphere that excites and inspires West Michigan students. For more information about the symphony and its programs, visit www.westmichigansymphony.org.