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TFO streams annual Youth Concert on demand for Tampa Bay schools

For the first time, The Florida Orchestra is streaming its annual Youth Concert on demand into Tampa Bay classrooms, safely bringing the power of classical music to an estimated 30,000 elementary students – more than ever before. TFO will not let the coronavirus stop its 50-year tradition of providing educational and engaging musical experiences for students in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

“Music has an incredible power to inspire and to provide comfort and hope. The world is hurting right now, and music can help us heal,” said TFO Resident Conductor Daniel Black, who leads the concert. “Our Youth Concert this year is focused on the message that great music can come from anywhere, or anyone. Even with the pandemic, we can still connect with our young audiences and show them the power of music. It’s needed now more than ever.”

The 2020 Youth Concert, titled Music in the New World, explores the music of North America through the travels of composer Antonin Dvorak. Since the annual fourth-grade field trip to the concert hall is not possible because of the pandemic, schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties will stream the concert on demand in two 25-minute segments to fit within class times. The concert is available to the schools through a private link anytime from Nov. 9-20, 2020. Virtual students will view the concert through their online learning platforms.

To produce the one-of-a-kind concert, the orchestra worked closely with the schools for months to ensure the program supports and enhances lessons already planned for the classroom. The collaboration includes a 40-page teaching guide produced by TFO to help students explore the repertoire and composers before and after the Youth Concert. The guide features lesson plans created by teachers from each school district and includes rich musical information, context and worksheets and activities for students.

“Pinellas County Schools values the strong partnership we have with The Florida Orchestra. For more than four decades, we have partnered with TFO to present these Youth Concerts.  These concerts have grown to be an integral part of our elementary music curriculum and are treasured by students, families, classroom teachers and music teachers,” said Jeanne Reynolds, Pinellas County Schools PK-12 performing arts specialist.

During the concert, students will learn about a wide range of music while they watch The Florida Orchestra perform excerpts from Dvorak’s New World Symphony and his String Quartet No. 12, “American.” They’ll hear Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Aaron Copland’s song Zion’s Walls performed by Gregg Baker, a bass baritone who has performed at the MET and throughout Europe. Dancers from the USF School of Dance perform ballet for Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody and encourage kids to dance to Bamboula by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. They’ll also get a taste of new music with a work called Starbust by Juilliard-trained composer Jessie Montgomery, and more.

“Teachers have enormous challenges during the pandemic, so we’re doing all we can to give them ready-to-go lesson plans and all the support they deserve,” said TFO Community Engagement Director Daryn Bauer, who oversees the concerts and understands first-hand how important they are to students. “The first time I ever saw an orchestra perform live was in the fourth grade when my elementary school, Forest Hills in Hillsborough County, went to TFO’s Youth Concert at the Straz Center. That experience has helped shape my life today in so many ways.”

“The virtual concert offers students a unique perspective by allowing them to experience the performance from the audience view as well as the orchestra musicians’ view. The instructional aspect of the concert reinforces the district curriculum and students are able to see direct application. We value our partnership with The Florida Orchestra and the lasting effect this music-making community has had on so many of our students,” said Melanie Faulkner, elementary music supervisor, Hillsborough County Schools.

The Florida Orchestra Youth Concerts are supported by the generosity of our community. Sponsors include the Janet A. Huntley Art Enrichment for Youth Fund, the Rothman Family Foundation and the Theodore P. Tonne and Marian Hadley Tonne Cultural Outreach Fund, among others. TFO is grateful to our partners who made this project possible, including the Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco school districts and their teachers and administrators; Bluewater Media for recording and producing the video; and sound engineer John Zumwalt Stephan.

The Florida Orchestra is the largest professional orchestra in the state, with more than 60 full-time musicians. After a nearly eight-month hiatus for the coronavirus pandemic, TFO resumed concerts at the end of October, both live at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and live streamed into homes for free so everyone has access to the music. To maximize safety, the orchestra is performing smaller, shorter concerts with no intermission for limited audiences following CDC guidelines.

Our community needs music now more than ever. Throughout the pandemic, TFO has kept the music and its mission going any way it can, including:

  • Teaching Artists support strings teachers and students virtually in Pinellas County. 
  • TFO keeps kids connected through free violin lessons in its partnership with the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program in Hillsborough County. 
  • TFO musicians have posted more than 120 performance and education videos in its TFO at Home online series since March. 

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