Education: The Kid-Connection

by Peggy Swafford (former Oregon Symphony violist), updated by Jonathan Dubay

The music made my heart sweep away and made me feel like I was special.
Your Friend, Melissa

This letter is just one of many wonderful messages directed to the orchestra after our Young Peoples Concerts. It is a vivid example of the contribution the orchestra musicians make, as a whole or individually, to the youth of our state. This is the Oregon Symphonys kid-connection.

Young Peoples Concerts

Every year, the orchestra as a whole performs 8 Young Peoples Concerts for grades 3-5 and 6 Young Adult Concerts for grades 6-12 for a total of almost 15,000 students. For these concerts we invite the young audience to our home in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and to Willamette Universitys Smith Hall in Salem, Oregon. A free teachers guide and CD are available in advance to help students become familiar with the topics presented in these concerts.

Neighborhood Concerts

Each year in August, the Oregon Symphony collaborates with local neighborhood leaders, community organizations, and neighborhood arts groups to present Oregon Symphony in the Neighborhoods in parks located in the Portland Metro area. An afternoon festival featuring performances by community groups, instrument petting zoos, arts displays, and local service booths is held before the free outdoor Symphony concert.

These programs are just a part of a variety of educational outreach activities directed toward the youth of our state. In addition, close to half of the musicians participate on an individual level in educational opportunities offered by the Symphony. These include exploring music with pre-schoolers at local libraries, playing in an ensemble in a grade school classroom, performing a master class with a high school orchestra, or assisting a music teacher with a roomful of beginning instrumentalists. These opportunities keep classical music alive in the minds and hearts of its supporters and performers of tomorrow.

Symphony Storytimes

An innovative partnership between the Oregon Symphony and the Multnomah County Library System brings music and literature together during library storytelling times for pre-schoolers and their parents. Each Storytime features a musician performing music that enhances and deepens the storytelling experience. A craft session where children make their own instruments out of common household items and an instrument petting zoo follow the storytimes. These are free and open to the public.


Small groups of musicians from the Oregon Symphony and a narrator bring the orchestra off the stage and into schools to create an up-close and accessible musical experience. A series of four 30-minute performances designed for students K-2, Kinderkonzerts are held at Portland metropolitan-area schools.

Community Music Partnerships

This is a residency program designed to serve rural or remote communities in the state with populations of 30,000 or less. A two-year partnership allows for many visits by musicians and staff, K-12 and community activities, and a full orchestra performance in the first year. The second year allows the community to develop a sustainability plan. In a recent partnership in Klamath Falls, the Symphony implemented a five-month long residency program doing 112 educational activities and concerts working with 26 schools reaching 8,500 students and adults.

All of the above programs are produced by the Oregon Symphony Education and Community Development Department, and are made possible by many generous contributions.

Out of our commitment to youth, many members of the orchestra teach private students, ensembles or music education classes. Some players teach in their homes or in studios throughout the metropolitan area, while others hold part and/or full-time teaching positions in public or private schools. On any day of the week, many can be found at Portland State University, Marylhurst College, Lewis and Clark College, Linfield college, Pacific University, Willamette University, the Community Music Center, to name just a few.

We are most eager to participate in making a kid-connection with the orchestra. Our primary reward is the discovery that children are truly special and that-through our efforts-a difference has been made for yet another child.

As Heather writes in a letter:
I thought (the concert) was very cool. You are the best that I know. You were rad, cool, nice and I liked it. Thank you.

Thank you, Heather, and Melissa, for helping keep the players and the kids connected!

Home | What's New? | Onstage | Backstage | In the Community | Contact Us | News | Orchestra Map | Hear Here | CDs | Biographies | Q & A | Teacher Listing | Point & Counterpoint | Links | News Media

© 2019 Oregon Symphony Players Association.  All rights reserved.