Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program pairs orchestras across the country with students in grades 3–5 at schools in their local communities to explore orchestral repertoire through a hands-on music curriculum. We recently interviewed two teachers, Lenore Swanson and Debbie Piper, from McNeil Canyon Elementary School in Homer, Alaska, where they are teaching the Link Up curriculum to their students in preparation for a recent concert with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. Debbie Piper is a general and visual arts teacher and Lenore Swanson is the school’s music teacher. Here is what they had to say:
Debbie Piper: I first learned about Link Up when I was a teacher leader in 2005 at the Alaska Art Educators Consortium's Summer Institute in Juneau, Alaska. Rachel Sokolow and Sarah Whitney came from the Weill Music Institute to teach in the music strand of the institute. Although I was the visual arts leader, I was highly interested in their teaching and participated when I could. I came away from their sessions asking myself, “How can I make this program work in our small community that does not have a professional orchestra to partner with?” In 2006, we implemented a Link Up concert, Theme and Variation, in our school gym, bringing together any local musicians that were willing to join our students. It was a huge success. In planning for another Link Up concert, I wondered how we could make our next concert even better. So, we have partnered with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. I obtained an Artist in the Schools grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts to have the conductor of the orchestra come work with staff and students in preparation for the concert. We will perform on a real stage, alongside the orchestra at our local high school.
Debbie Piper: Not being a music teacher, I find the materials easy to use with my students. The recordings are helpful for daily practice and the text guides me as I work with the children. The online materials are a great resource. This extraordinary music experience provides a doorway to meaningful cross-curricular integration. I have integrated math, visual arts, language arts, science, and social studies with our Link Up curriculum, using the question “How do we express ideas?”
LEFT: Tammy Vollum-Matturro, Music Director of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, visits Debbie Piper’s classroom. RIGHT: Students paint visual rhythms; children reflect on the songs they have learned to realize how composers express ideas through music..
LEFT: Third-graders from Homer, Alaska practice in their classroom. RIGHT: Debbie Piper’s Kindergarten class created masks for their participation in Aaron Copland’s “I Bought Me a Cat” at the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s upcoming Link Up Concert.
Debbie Piper: Parents and students are very excited and were anticipating our concert. Folks in the community are impressed to learn that this will be such a unique concert. It's a surprise for them to learn that students will be playing along with the orchestra.
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