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Classical Music Works in Concert with Academic Studies

October 27, 2015
Symphony of Northwest Arkansas brings its orchestra to local classrooms
For students in some Northwest Arkansas schools, music education has reached a new level. In addition to learning traditional subjects like science and math, students also work directly with professional musicians from the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas (SoNA).

“We want to help students develop their thought processes,” said Kristen Predl, SoNA’s education director. “So, when we listen to a piece of music, we want them to think about characterization, themes, settings, and rhythm. These same concepts are then applied to their academic studies in literature, science, social studies, and other subject matter.”

SoNA provides music education to local schools through two programs – The Case of the Missing Melody and ImagiMusic. The Case of the Missing Melody, a collaboration with Trike Theatre in Bentonville, is a program for kindergarten through second-grade kids and helps them develop personal and emotional connections to music. ImagiMusic is a workshop for third- through fifth-grade students developed to teach musical concepts by interacting one-on-one and in small groups with symphony musicians.

“The schools in the ImagiMusic program have a large population of students considered to be underserved, and this is their first exposure to classical music,” said Predl.

Kyle Schoeller, a music teacher at Northside Elementary School in Rogers, Ark., says ImagiMusic has introduced a new world for many of his students, some of whom have special needs.

“I had a student with autism last year who basically closed himself off from others. He didn’t like loud noises or large crowds,” Schoeller recalled. “But, while engaged in ImagiMusic, he was placed in a small group headed by a trumpet player with the symphony and they connected. Before long, the child wanted to play the drums – the loudest instrument, not unlike the trumpet – and he wanted to perform for his classmates. It opened a whole new world for him, and has aided his intellectual and social development.”

The children, Schoeller says, get hooked on the music and want to learn more.

“ImagiMusic challenges children to think on a deeper level and forces their brains to fire on all cylinders because they have to use words, vocalization, and imagination to describe the music,” Schoeller said.

This year, ImagiMusic workshops are expected to reach about 3,000 kids in 10 schools in the region, and five rural elementary schools are participating in The Case of the Missing Melody.

“We see the value of infusing the arts into all areas of education,” Predl said. “We want to help children become better students and grow an appreciation for classical music. Who knows – one of these children may one day be playing for our symphony.”

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