West Michigan Symphony has been a partner in Carnegie Hall’s internationally-reaching education series longer than any other U.S. orchestra

MUSKEGON, MI, April 25, 2024—Few things in life are more impressive than getting to play along with a 60-piece live orchestra, no matter what your age. For a third, fourth or fifth grader, it’s life changing.

On the morning of Tuesday, May 14, nearly 4,000 elementary students from 46 area schools—including districts from Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, Oceana, Newaygo, and Mason counties—will have this experience as West Michigan Symphony (WMS) presents its 20th straight year of Link Up beginner music concerts live at the Frauenthal Center. The performances are scheduled for 9:30am, 11:00am and 12:30pm. For many of these youngsters, this will be a first live concert experience—but they are not just passive recipients. Link Up is a classroom-to-concert program, and the students will be applying musical concepts they have been studying all year in their school classrooms. The concert even includes segments where they play the recorder along with the orchestra from their seats.

Through a hands-on curriculum, Link Up pairs orchestras with students to explore symphonic repertoire and fundamental musical skills, including creative work and composition. It provides professional development and support for the music teachers using the curriculum and comes with comprehensive, ready-made classroom materials, online video and audio resources.

Since last fall, area students have been learning to read music through learning to play actual melodies that will be featured during the concert. They have received direct coaching from four specially trained WMS musicians who have made over 70 classroom visits during the school year. A WMS string quartet also visited select schools to perform for students.

Students will be reunited with these musicians at the concert and will play along with them live. Not only does Link Up feature the 64-piece professional orchestra, but also young musicians from several of WMS’s student ensembles: Premier Strings for intermediate to advanced players, and Children’s Choir for ages eight to 13. It is an all-out bid to inspire the young audience to participate in music, just when they are ready for their own school band or orchestra.

In 2004, WMS was one of ten U.S. orchestras to pilot the program—with curriculum developed by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute—outside of New York City. Today over 110 orchestras worldwide use Link Up. WMS is the longest running partner. Since its inception, more than 65,000 students have participated. Parents who went through Link Up are now seeing their own children experience it. In one instance, an area music teacher who is a Link Up “alumnus” is now bringing their own class!

WMS mounts an annual core series of eight subscription concerts held in Muskegon’s historic Frauenthal Center. Link Up is the largest program in its Community Music Encounters, a comprehensive community music program that includes early childhood music, tuition-based youth ensembles, and free after-school beginning strings for underserved students. It also operates The Block, an immersive music listening room presenting 15 annual performances of classical chamber, crossover and jazz. ###

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts