On Thursday, February 20, at 1:00 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center, the Helena Symphony Orchestra will perform its annual youth concert for over 1,600 fourth and fifth grade students from twenty elementary schools coming from over ten school districts and six cities. In addition to the eleven elementary schools from the Helena School District, students from St. Andrew’s School, Radley Elementary School in East Helena, Elliston, Montana City, Clancy, Townsend, and the Helena Area Christian Home Educators will be attending this concert for fourth and fifth graders.
In addition to the generous support from all of the attending schools, the Symphony is grateful for the generous support from the Student Assistance Foundation, the Montana Credit Union Network, The Parrot, the Helena Music Teachers Association, and several individuals. “For many students, this will be their first opportunity to experience a live performance of classical music,” explains Executive Director Ginny Abbott.
Students attending will experience the orchestra through an orchestral courtroom comedy for family audiences based on the characters, events, and music of the symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev. Based on the well-known story, this new twist begins immediately after the Wolf eats the Duck. Set in a court room, the Wolf is on trail, and complete with several professional actors, the story of Peter vs. The Wolf recounts the famous story while introducing the elements of music and the orchestra to the students. Helena actors Pam Ponich, Jay Bahny, and Mokey McNeilly, will appear as the three principal actors as the District Attorney, the Judge, and the Wolf respectively, and Seamus Whyte makes his acting debut with the Helena Symphony as the title role of Peter.
The annual Youth Concert is completely focused on the music education of over 1,600 fourth and fifth graders from several school districts, including school districts in rural communities with hundreds of underprivileged children. “The focus of this project serves not only the music education of the students in several communities, but the project provides the much needed life lessons through the arts, self-expression, and how arts and education are intrinsically linked,” explains Jefferson Elementary School Principal Lona Carter-Scanlon, who also assists with the Symphony’s outreach efforts.
In addition to Music Director Allan R. Scott and the artistic administration of the Helena Symphony, the selection of the artists, programs, and music is guided by music educators, specifically long time music educator Barbara Berg, who also serves as HSO’s Principal Flute. “The programs are designed specifically for the music education of fourth and fifth graders,” explains Ms. Berg. “The Youth Concert also seeks to make a lasting impact on the fourth and fifth grade students before they enter middle school where they hopefully will participate in orchestra, band, or chorus, and in many ways, this concert is one of the last experiences the fourth and fifth graders will have before deciding to take up an instrument.”
“The evidence is clear,” explains Maestro Scott, “in that a child who plays an instrument is not merely a well-rounded individual, but a person that learns self-confidence, self-expression, and embraces a value system which has an understanding of the importance of music and the arts as they progress through life. So with the help of so many generous organizations, schools, and individuals, the Helena Symphony can ensure we continue to help raise the children in our community. This is so much more than a concert.”