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Arts In Education
The Arts in Education Program has been successful in bringing together professional musicians and at risk students in After School Programs to play, listen to, and learn about classical music. Musicians from Wheeling Symphony Orchestra chamber ensembles had much to tell students about their instruments as well as perform for them and, in a successful new project, teach them how to play. Although students have had music in their after school programs since 2002 through the Wheeling Symphony’s project with funding through the Robinson S. Parlin Trust, the restructured program has successfully completed its second year.
Serving economically disadvantaged students in Wheeling who often do not have access to opportunities for experiencing the joy and discipline inspired by exposure to music, Arts in Education has been offered at Laughlin Memorial Chapel’s After School Program; and the Anchor Program at Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island and at Triadelphia Middle School. Because Wheeling Catholic Elementary School closed its doors during this school year, a new component was added to the existing program, group lessons at Laughlin Chapel in drumming taught by Eliseo Rael, Wheeling Symphony percussionist. Many students who had attended Wheeling Catholic Elementary School were now attending Laughlin Chapel’s After School Program and had the opportunity to participate in this program.
Approximately 115 low-income students participated in each session at Laughlin Memorial Chapel and the Anchor Programs at Madison and Triadelphia through the Wheeling Symphony Arts in Education program during the 2011-12 school year. Research indicates that music awareness can lead to higher standardized test scores, enhanced self esteem, and perhaps more importantly, serve as an effective channel for self-expression. Music allows students to express emotions in a positive way that helps deter destructive behaviors. We sincerely believe that music is making a difference in the lives of students in these after school programs.
Laughlin Memorial Chapel has operated since 1972 as a safe haven for children who live in the surrounding impoverished, inner-city neighborhood. Over 92% of the children who attend the Chapel qualify for free/reduced meals at school. During the most recent program year, 57 students from Laughlin Chapel’s After School Program, from kindergarten through 12th grade, received music instruction through the Wheeling Symphony’s Arts in Education Program. Through this program, Michelle Pissos, a music educator and member of the viola section of the Wheeling Symphony, worked with students in preparation for performances by each chamber ensemble. Each of the four orchestral family groups performed once for the students at the Chapel: String Quintet, Woodwind Quintet, Brass Quintet and Percussion Ensemble. Musicians in each ensemble talked about their instruments and about the music they were playing.
The String Quintet focused on music that evoked strong emotions. Students were asked how they felt as they listened to each work performed. The Woodwind Quintet selected music that featured each instrument and titled their program, My Favorite Things. Brass Quintet members focused on the comparison between two different types of music, classical and jazz. The Percussion Ensemble featured music for marimba that was arranged by Eliseo Rael, Wheeling Symphony percussionist. At the end of each performance, students were given opportunities to ask questions. Many questions were thoughtful and demonstrated a distinct difference from the first year of the program. Students who participated in last year’s program had become more disciplined and courteous as they continued learning behavior conducive to a live music performance of classical music.
In addition, Eliseo Rael created a new program for eight middle and high school students focused on drumming techniques. The Young Lions drumming ensemble at Laughlin Chapel had been established previously through the Wheeling Symphony Artist in Residence Program. Since African drums were available at the Chapel, students were anxious to learn proper techniques for performance. This class proved to be very successful with the boys developing their talents and love of music through expressing themselves with good drumming skills.
The Anchor Program, a 21st Century Learning Center, at Madison School and Triadelphia Middle School, is an after school program that serves low-income at-risk students in Wheeling. The program director reported that for the current year, 86% of participants were economically disadvantaged.
Students in Madison’s Anchor Program had the opportunity to travel to the Stifel Fine Arts Center for every performance by Wheeling Symphony ensembles. Not only were students able to leave Wheeling Island for an excursion, but also to hear classical chamber ensembles in a setting conducive to chamber music. The Stifel Center living room is acoustically excellent and presents a wonderful environment for listening to a small group of musicians. When expectations are high for students, they usually demonstrate their capabilities at a high level. These at risk students at Madison School asked the most thoughtful questions of all the programs and behaved in the most courteous manner conducive to a live performance.
The same performances and concert preparation presented at Laughlin Chapel were also presented at Madison’s Anchor Program.
Triadelphia’s Anchor Program was the smallest group of all the after school programs. However, the same program was presented to at risk students who were eager to learn. Because of their age and smaller group size, they were also given opportunities to play marimba, pluck strings, blow into brass instruments, and hold woodwind instruments. Some of these students had already begun to play in band and orchestra and had many questions about practicing, playing different kinds of music and instrument care. Our musicians enjoyed the dialogue with them as well as performing for them.
At the end of each program year, Wheeling Symphony Executive Director and Education Coordinator gain feedback from directors of each After School Program to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the program in preparation for the next year’s scheduling. All have expressed the benefits and need for the continuation of the program within their program sites. In the coming year, program effectiveness will be measured using the following outcome indicators:
- Number of participants.
- Attitude towards instruction and responsibility.
- Learning demonstrated through questions asked.
- Feedback from program site directors.