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SR Symphony Expands the "It’s Elementary!" Program

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SR Symphony Expands the "It’s Elementary!" Program

Santa Rosa Symphony’s It’s Elementary! music enrichment program for youth has expanded to include a sixth Sonoma County elementary school. The program is offered to qualifying Sonoma County schools for a term of two years each. During those two years, the teachers and students in the school are enrolled free of charge in the five main educational programs offered by SRS to schools throughout Sonoma County. The following programs are provided without cost to the students in the It’s Elementary! program.

The Elementary School Listening Program provides a 5-minute daily listening piece and scripts to go with each day. The children hear the same piece of music each day for 5 days, with scripts that vary slightly from day to day. For instance, the name of the composer is repeated during the week. By Friday, the script asks the students if they remember the name of the composer. This program is available to all schools in Sonoma County on a fee basis, and is free of charge to the schools in the It’s Elementary! program.

“The kids and teachers love the Listening Program! I was surprised to discover how much they look forward to it each day. Students will remind their teachers to play the music if they don’t start at the appointed time. The listening program gives students time to center and focus, which supports the development of mindfulness. Mindfulness practices cultivate emotional resilience, self-awareness and empathy, which are essential life skills and traits we all need,” commented Betha MacClain, Principal at Jack London Elementary School and a member of the Santa Rosa Symphony Board of Directors.

The Meet Our Families Assemblies bring in four chamber groups representing the four orchestra families (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) to perform in each It’s Elementary! school over the course of the two years. The programs are interactive and lively. For example, the percussion trio actually brings bucket percussion for the students to try. At the end of the second year, one of the three youth orchestras of the Symphony performs in each school. This final concert is a great way for the students to see kids approximately their own age performing. This program is provided free of charge to the It’s Elementary! schools, and is available to other schools for a fee.

Kaesa Enemark, former Steele Lane Elementary Principal, said of the program, “Steele Lane students and staff loved the personalized concert. It was adorable to see the students in awe of the music and musicians. [It] warmed my heart as I sat on the cafeteria floor amongst my wiggly first graders and kindergartners. I almost wept with happiness.” 

Youth Discovery Cards provide a free ticket for each child and one adult companion to attend dress rehearsals of the Santa Rosa Symphony classical series concerts at the Green Music Center throughout the year. These complimentary tickets give children an opportunity to see the orchestra at work! Youth Discovery Cards are made available free of charge to ALL elementary schools in Sonoma County. 

The Free Concerts For Youth program brings students to the Green Music Center during the school day for a concert by the SRS Youth Orchestra, Repertory Orchestra or the Santa Rosa Symphony. The Symphony underwrites the cost of transportation to the concerts for schools in the It’s Elementary! program; other schools provide their own transportation to these free events.

Each year the final Free Concerts For Youth includes a segment called IGNITE! Teachers learn how to teach fundamental music concepts to their students using a curriculum provided by the Santa Rosa Symphony with support from SRS Education staff. The curriculum prepares students to play recorder or sing along with the orchestra. The cost of this program, including the loan of recorders for the students to play, is free for the schools in the It’s Elementary! program. Other elementary schools in Sonoma County can also participate in the IGNITE! program through the SRS.

It’s Elementary! partner schools are chosen based on criteria set by the SRS, which take into account the kind of music education already available to the students and the percentage of the students considered to be disadvantaged. As a result of increased understanding of the importance of the arts in the core curriculum being shown at the both state and district level within California, the SRS has seen a leap in interest in the It’s Elementary! program here in Sonoma County. In 2015, the Symphony decided to increase the number of schools in the program to a total of six per year; nine schools applied for the three new spots. Steele Lane Elementary, Helen Lehman Elementary and Jack London Elementary are in their second year. Bellevue Elementary, Olivet Elementary Charter School and Woodland Star Charter School joined the program this year. With the addition of Woodland Star, the It’s Elementary! program has expanded geographically to include Sonoma.