Learning and Social Impact Department Updates

Each day, we take strides to “enrich lives and community through great music!  Since the start of the new year, we have been very busy with outreach efforts to a variety of different places.  Our talented musicians and Melissa White, our wonderful Joyce C. Willis Artist-in-Residence, underwritten by the Roberts Foundation, have been all over the area supporting our community.  Our activities have included developing school partnerships by working with music teacher’s orchestra programs and ensemble performances for pre-school aged students to senior living residents. We’ve performed for hospital patients and staff at St. Francis and collaborated with a music therapist with the Chrysalis Program.  Currently, we’re gearing up for our Young Artist Competition too!   

Discovery Concert

Mortensen Hall turned into a rock ‘n roll arena on Tuesday, March 19 as the Discovery Concert Link Up: Orchestra Rocks took place on the main stageThe HSO was accompanied by over 1,500 recorder-playing students from Hartford Public SchoolsLink Up programming is part of a national partnership with Carnegie Hall with the intent to introduce students in grades 3 – 5 to the orchestra.  The Learning and Social Impact Department leads professional development with the Hartford Public Schools music teachers to support students learning the recorderDuring the concert, the hall was filled with wonderful pieces such as La Follia”, “O Fortuna” and the Link Up theme song, “Come to Play.”  The concert closed with an amazing rendition of Johnny B. GoodeIn attendance were the East Hartford Public Schools 2nd grade students as we plan on expanding the program to include them for the 2024-2025 season. 

Symphony in Schools

We are working with Farmington and Avon Schools to deepen the connection between HSO musicians and students.  Musicians go into schools and work with full orchestras or ensembles.  They talk about their careers, answer questions, and then provide feedback to our beginning musiciansViolinists Jarek Lis, Debby Tyler and Martha Kaysar have all supported our students with advice about posture, bow usage, and technique to maneuver hands to accentuate certain sounds.  

Our ensembles continue to be requested for school performances!  On Friday, January 26, our Jazz Quartet performed at the STEM Magnet School at Annie Fisher in Hartford.   The quartet explained how jazz is connected to STEM.  On Tuesday, Feb. 6 our Brass Quintet were feted at Noah Webster School in Hartford as they played amazing music, listened to the students play for them and then had a shared concert joyfully combining their skills together. 

The HSO had a double-bill on Friday, Feb. 9 as both “Two Frog Duo” and “Charter Oak Trio” ensembles played for over 140 students in seven different classrooms at Montessori Magnet at Batchelder School.  Our musicians engaged the students by talking about how the instruments make sound and played pieces that sounds like nature.  The musicians also talked about emotions and how music can make them feel differently.  What really made this performance special was hearing the laughter and joy of the children mix with the music. 

On March 7, The Hartford Symphony celebrated Read Across America with the Hartford Public Schools. This initiative was developed to promote reading for school-aged children. Volunteers read books to 3rd grade classrooms. Overall, this program served 217 classrooms from 47 schools in 3 towns.

The Hartford Symphony was assigned to three schools in Hartford. Participants from the HSO included musicians John Michael Flavetta, Marth Kayser and Melissa White, our Joyce C. Willis Artist-in-Residence, underwritten by the Roberts Foundation. Arts administrators Jen Phipps and Andy Robbin also participated. Our musicians enjoyed a rousing opening assembly with performances by two student groups. Then, we went to our assigned school and read Opal Lee and What It Means to be Free, a wonderful true story about Juneteeth. We are very appreciative of the time we go to share our love of reading with students!

Musician’s Care

One of our Symphony strengths is how we bring music to locations for people who may not regularly be able to attend performances at the Bushnell.  This past quarter we began a partnership with St. Francis Hospital.  Martha Kayser, Lisa Rautenberg and Candy Lammers have been rotating as duos to provide music for patients receiving treatments at the Cancer Center and in the Medical Oncology Unit.  The impact it has had on the patients and staff has been amazing. 

Fitting our caring theme, the Charter Oak Brass Trio had multiple sessions at the Chrysalis Center.  Barbra Hill, Brian Diehl and John Charles Thomas worked with music therapist Emily Bevelaqua to provide comfort, structure and fun for clients in treatment.  A clear highlight for all was when the clients put poetry to music, and the musicians restructured the song to match the flow of the poem. 

We’ve also continued our strong relationship with Seabury and Duncaster as a number of different ensembles have performed or are scheduled to perform including Brass Quintet, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Quintet, Mosaic Trio and Coppia Edificante Violin Duo. 

Young Artist Competition

Our YAC is at full tempoThe Hartford Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce that after an intense virtual round involving twenty-six applicants, the semifinalists for the 46th Young Artists Competition have been selected. On Saturday, April 20th, ten Connecticut residents in grades 9 – 12 will be perform for a panel of judges in the hopes they are chosen to be one of the five finalists that will perform with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra at the finals concert and dessert reception. The talent and artistry demonstrated in the first round was just a glimpse of the star quality among this year’s contestants, and we know the final event is sure to be a memorable oneSo, mark your calendars for Saturday, May 18th, at 3 PM,  at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Theater of the Performing Arts, and join us as we celebrate another successful year of the HSO’s Young Artists Competition. 

Guest Artists and Artist-in-Residence Melissa White

We were fortunate enough to have Boyd Meets Girl and Melissa White extend outreach to our community.  Rupert Boyd, guitar, and Laura Metcalf, cello, of “Boyd Meets Girl” visited Conard High School (West Hartford) on Feb. 7.  Performing selections from Clarice Assad’s “Anahata”, students from the freshman orchestra and band got to hear solo parts from the newly commissioned piece.  Rupert and Laura answered questions about their career and also played their composition of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”.  The visit was extra special for Laura as she is a Conard High School graduate. This was followed up with two Masterclasses for cello and guitar with students from the Hartt Community Division. 

Melissa White had an amazing trip here in early March.  We were able to show off her talents in many different ways. On March 4, we visited the South End Boys and Girls Club. Leading 12 students in Yoga.  On the morning of March 5, Melissa worked with students in grades 2 – 5 at the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts. In the afternoon, Melissa spoke with the entire music department at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She reminisced on her winning a Grammy and what the ceremony was like. She advised them to put in the work and dream bigger and then led a Masterclass with a violinist. 

March 6th started out with a lot of energy!  We were fortunate enough to be invited to the beautiful Swift Factory by Ms. Brenda Watson.  Ms. Watson arranged to have the entire Community First School meet with Melissa White.  Melissa played a bunch of kid-friendly music and had a variety of interactions. Students had to stand up when loud music was played and sit when the music was quieter.  We sang in a round of Row, Row, Row Your Boat while Melissa played the music.  There was a collection of student drummers that kept a steady beat while Melissa improvised her own music.  The afternoon was much calmer as we returned to East Hartford High School to work with three different string ensembles. 

On March 7, we spent the morning participating in Read Across America.  After that, Melissa White visited the 8th grade orchestra at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy to spend time with Mrs. Speer and her students. 

The visits at Ana Grace Academy of the Arts and East Hartford High School were return visits so we could continue our work from the fall.  Both of these schools will be performing their work at an April 30th community event at the Arts Collective at 6:30 PM.  Be on the look out for more information! 

We are appreciative of the Roberts Foundation for underfunding the Joyce C. Willis Artist in Residence program that allows Melissa to visit Hartford.