Music in the Mountains ‘Link Up’ with schools | TheUnion.com

Music in the Mountains ‘Link Up’ with schools

Julie Becker
Submitted to The Union

Although the legendary Leonard Bernstein was a renowned conductor and composer, he was also known as "America's Music Teacher."

Passionate about teaching music, he once wrote, "Children must receive music education as naturally as food, with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game, and this must happen from the beginning of their lives."

Bernstein's words could very well be a motto painted on the wall in the Music in the Mountains office in Nevada City. Knowing that musical training can very well build confidence, empathy and connection to the community, MIM offers a full round of musical resources for local schools.

For example, with Music Live, professional musicians — playing in a brass quintet, a woodwind quintet, a string quartet or a percussion trio — perform entertaining chamber music for groups of students, introducing them to instruments of the orchestra up close and personal.

Peers Performing 4 Peers brings young musicians into classrooms to play mini-concerts and talk about their musical experiences. Take 5 for Music exposes children in the classroom to some of the world's greatest music by listening to brief excerpts on audio tracks, and learning about the composers and their compositions.

Still, one of the most impressive educational endeavors is the Carnegie Hall Link Up program, geared to students in third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms. Following a multi-faceted curriculum, children sing and play recorders during the fall and winter, culminating in a full-scale concert in March where kids from all the participating local schools gather together to perform live with a professional orchestra.

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Several decades ago, Leonard Bernstein produced a series of Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic which were aired by CBS, and without fail, his talks and presentations were accessible to all. This same accessibility is a major goal of the Link Up program. And to make this happen, Carnegie Hall provides curriculum guides, workbooks and CD audio tracks to classroom teachers, outlining brief lessons on rhythm, melody and other musical components while interweaving the playing of tunes and themes on the recorder.

One of the most enticing aspects of Link Up is that students learn to play passages from major symphonic works so they can join in with the orchestra at the big concert in March. Two years ago, when the Link Up theme was The Orchestra Moves — illustrating how melodies and motifs create dancing and movement — students played along with the Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss.

Last year, when the curriculum theme was The Orchestra Rocks — addressing rhythm and strength in music — students joined in for the finale of Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony, which featured a melody borrowed from a traditional folk tune which the kids had sung in class.

This year's Link Up course of study is The Orchestra Sings, and as one of the highlights, students will play along with their recorders during the well-known Largo movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony. They also will learn to play the "Ode to Joy," which Beethoven famously incorporated into his dramatic ninth symphony. And as an added attraction, they'll play and sing the old Shaker tune "'Tis a Gift to Be Simple," a melody Aaron Copland wove into his Appalachian Spring ballet.

Typically, come the day of the culminating concert, there is electricity in the air. Children arrive in cars and buses and file into the Amaral Center at the Fairgrounds. While most of them have recorders in hand, a few others carry in flutes, cellos, clarinets and trumpets.

Wide-eyed, they take their seats and face the full Music in the Mountains Link Up Orchestra up on the stage. And before long, they experience the thrill of performing in the concert hall with the whole orchestra, creating magnificent music, virtually all in one voice.

Music in the Mountains is naturally enthused with the brilliance of the Carnegie Hall Link Up program and encourages as many schools as possible to take advantage of this offering. To help make this happen, the organization is seeking experienced musicians who would be willing to serve as docents in school classrooms.

Parents, teachers, administrators, musicians and students who want to know more about Link Up or other educational programs should contact MIM's education coordinator Mark Vance via email at mark@musicinthemountains.org or call 530-265-6173.

Julie Becker lives in Nevada City and is a member of Music in the Mountains Education Task Force.