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Five Minutes of Enrichment

Mike Lawson • Archives • February 13, 2008

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the students in our schools were exposed to five minutes of classical music every day? We’ve all seen the clinical studies touting the benefits of listening to and performing music, and now the New Bedford (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra has set up an interesting program called “Music in the Mornings,” which provides “five minutes of famous compositions at the start of every academic day,” according to a report on the Web site SouthCoastToday.com. The intriguing aspect of this program is that the students in grades 2 through 6 hear the same five-minute music clip each day for five days, but the dialogue is changed daily to direct the listener’s attention to different aspects of the repertoire. There are 36 different compositions introduced to the students throughout the school year, helping them gain exposure to a wide variety of music from different periods and composers, including Mozart, Bach, Stravinsky, and others. It’s easy to imagine the kids picking their favorites, talking with other students about them, and perhaps even asking their parents to buy the pieces on iTunes.

The benefits to this unique program are multifold, as it not only helps the children, but also aids the orchestra. Students have a brief respite from their normal day and their attention is redirected to the musical performance. It may calm them and help them focus on the music as well as the other tasks ahead for the day. Additionally, studies have shown that an education in music and exposure to classical music may help to foster better academic scores on a variety of standardized tests.

For the orchestra there are increased revenue opportunities and visibility, as the ensemble is compensated $3,000 for each school that signs up for this five-year program. They currently have over 32 schools signed up for this program with the New Bedford orchestra, so the total revenue figure is currently $96,000. “Music in the Mornings” has been launched nationally with a variety of orchestras and currently has over 2,000 schools involved. This is certainly a very important stream of capital for orchestras, especially during these times of decreased ticket sales and reduced grants and subsidies from the business community. It is easy to see the benefits of selling this subscription to a wider audience by a variety of orchestras nationwide.

In a previous editorial, I wrote about a director who simply played a CD of music as his students were filing into the band room in order to expose them to different styles and compositions. The program from the New Bedford Symphony is geared more toward a younger audience, although the concept could certainly be adapted to the middle- or high-school student, and also could be set up to include different forms of classical, jazz, opera, or serious contemporary music.

Just a bit more knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for music could mean a more rounded and successful student and help to increase future audiences for orchestral music performance. You can find more information on this program at: www.nbsymphony.org/ed_outreach.html.

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