Alabama Symphony brings music to students

After hours of making their best attempts at sitting quietly behind desks, students at Elvin Hill Elementary got the chance to make some noise April 23.

Meaghan Heinrich, education manager for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, clapped her hands in a rhythmic pattern, which the students quickly copied. Before teachers’ reflexes could shush them, the fourth- and fifth-graders had erupted in thunderous clapping.

“So, tell me what does an orchestra do,” Heinrich asked the crowd of students.

“They play lots of music. But an orchestra doesn’t have just one type of instrument, it has many different instruments or else it wouldn’t be an orchestra,” Heinrich said. “It also plays many different types of music.”

The ASO and Shelby County Arts Council have partnered to teach music appreciation to Shelby County’s youth. The arts council even purchased 1,900 tickets for students and teachers to attend Young People’s Concerts in Palmer Hall at the University of Montevallo.

The concert theme is “An American Celebration” and features pieces by Duke Ellington and the song “Simple Gifts.”

Prior to the shows, Heinrich and one of the ASO conductors visited schools across the county to teach music fundamentals and the meaning of American music. Heinrich spent about an hour at Elvin Hill introducing the students to the orchestra by playing her own instrument. She also demonstrated rhythym, tempo and volume. She even let a few students try their hand at conducting.

And they created their own “Theme and Variations” on the song “Simple Gifts.” The kids really slapped their knees for the country version and even tried their mouths at beatboxing while Heinrich rapped the song lyrics.

The concerts themselves were designed to be highly interactive, allowing students to use the concepts learned in the workshops. They took place Tuesday, April 28 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., with a final performance at 10 a.m. today.