6,400 students from the Quad Cities and beyond attended the annual Symphony Day concerts on Thursday, February 28.
Every year on Symphony Day, over 6,000 fourth and fifth grade students travel to Davenport’s Adler Theatre to experience a live orchestra performance. This event introduces students to the symphony orchestra and classical music through an engaging program performed by the Quad City Youth Symphony Orchestra. The youth orchestra members—who are only a few years older than their audience members—serve as positive musical role models for the elementary school students in attendance.
Each year activities and educational resources are made available to teachers to prepare their students for the concerts. See the Symphony Day Resource Guide.
This year’s theme, “Immigrant Stories,” explored the diversity of composers, musicians, and orchestral works that were influenced by different countries and their musical traditions.
The program began with the “Simple Guide to the Orchestra” by William Kraft. Each instrument was introduced and featured using the tune, “Frere Jacques,” which most students learned before attending the concert. The familiar tuned paired with unique sounds of each instrument on stage, helped students learn how the orchestra is built from the double bass to the piccolo.
Next, students heard Carlos Chavez’s “Sinfonia India.” Chavez, a native of Mexico, used rhythmic and melodic themes from two indigenous tribes, the Yaqui and Huichol. Chavez studied his native country’s rich musical history and infused it into the common symphonic form in this spirited work.
“Sinfonia India” invokes a series of polyrhythms (a rhythm which makes use of two or more different rhythms simultaneously) from the Huichol tribe and the melodic lyricism of the Yuichol tribe. Students learned how different cultures use rhythm and melody in their musical traditions.
What students didn’t expect at Symphony Day was a visit from a very grumpy bear.
Dr. Benjamin Coehlo, principal bassoon of the QCSO, performed“Der Alte Brummbar” by Julius Fucik accompanied by the Youth Symphony Orchestra. The translated title means, “The Old Grumpy Bear.” Dr. Coehlo took on the persona of a grumpy bear (complete with costume), teaching students about the bassoon and polka. Dr. Coehlo also talked about his immigration from Brazil to the U.S. and even taught students a phrase in Portuguese.
The Symphony Day program concluded with the last two movements of the Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky. Stravinsky immigrated to many countries, including Switzerland, France, and the United States. As a native Russian, Stravinsky was influenced by the classical traditions of Western Europe with the compelling nature of Russian storytelling in his Firebird Suite. Students were asked to listen to music and create their own stories. We have included a few photos of their work below.
“Berceuse & Finale” demonstrated the dynamic extremes of the orchestra with the first movement evoking a soft lullaby and the second portraying a triumphant hero celebrating his victory over evil!
Symphony Day is made possible with the support of Volunteers for Symphony and the musicians in the Youth Symphony Orchestra who invested their time and talent to inspire the next generation of musicians.
Artwork by students at Fulton Elementary School in Fulton, IL.
The Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles (QCSYE) program consists of five performance groups (four youth orchestras and a youth choir) for students in grades two through twelve. Under the direction of the outstanding QCSYE conducting staff, members have the opportunity to perform great orchestral and choral repertoire with the most talented young musicians in the area and learn from the mentorship of professional musicians from throughout the region. Ensemble members come from the greater Quad Cities, as well as other communities in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois.