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Link Up Gets Kids Moving With the Symphony

Justin Regan

It’s probably safe to assume that when it comes to music, most elementary school kids are more familiar with Bieber than Beethoven. But, an education program run by Carnegie Hall aims to change that. As Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, Link Up not only teaches kids about orchestral music, it gets them out of the classroom and performing with their local symphonies.

Hundreds of elementary school kids are packed into Ardrey Auditorium at Northern Arizona University. After weeks of practicing Cidade Maravilhosa, by Brazilian composer André Filho, their big moment has finally arrived as they perform it with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.   

“I liked the music and it was very inspiring. It felt like I was famous,” said Emilly Jenks.

Emilly Jenks is a fifth grader at Williams Elementary School. It’s one of more than 20 schools in Northern Arizona participating in the Link Up program.

“You can be in front of tons of people performing, and you can learn new instruments and it’s so much fun and I would just love to do that stuff,” said Jenks.

Link Up was launched in the mid-eighties as a music education program at Carnegie Hall. The idea was to make classical music more than just something kids hear, but something they experience. Phil Bravo, manages the program based in New York City.

“That introduces kids to the orchestra through an interactive curriculum that they learn over the course of the year and they come to a concert experience. We also partner with now approximately 70 orchestras around the world who present their own concerts where students come in, they play recorder, they play violin along with the orchestra from their seats,” said Bravo.

They also dance and sing songs they’ve spent months rehearsing with their music teachers.

“Today we were basically just preparing and getting ready and just getting excited about singing with the symphony, it’s a really big experience for them,” said Krisy Hafford.

Krisy Hafford teaches music at Knoles Elementary School in Flagstaff.

“You see kids that normally don’t really get into music, or music isn’t really their thing, which is fine, but then they get into this concert and they get to experience this whole… there’s thousands of people in there and it just gets them excited, and there’s just this buzz happening,” said Hafford.

It’s also special for the Orchestra.

“One of the neatest things to see is a violinist or another member of the Orchestra come down to the front of the stage and give high-fives to these students. They feel like rock stars,” said Christopher Barton.

Christopher Barton is executive director of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. He says this is the second year they’ve participated in the program. And so far they’re the only orchestra in the state to do so.

“We get so many thank you notes from students and from different schools after the program that say, ‘I am excited to play an instrument now’ ‘I want to learn more about music’ ‘Link Up was better than my Birthday party’, said Barton.

For fifth grader Ashley Alexander, the program has transformed her appreciation of classical music.   

“It’s changed how I feel about music because before, I thought about music as just blank space to fill the air, but now I know it’s important. It makes people happy, it makes people move and dance and want to dance,” said Alexander.

This year, close to 4,000 students from Arizona made music with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. The musicians say it’s one of the most exciting concerts of their season.

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