On Thursday, February 21, 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.  For the eighth consecutive year, the Student Assistance Foundation has ensured this opportunity for students to experience live classical music.  In addition to the eleven elementary schools from the Helena School District, students from St. Andrew’s School, Radley Elementary School in East Helena, Montana City, Clancy, Boulder, Lincoln, Townsend, Helena Christian School, and the Helena Area Christian Home Educators will be attending this concert for fourth and fifth graders.

The mission of the STUDENT ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION is to provide students with the knowledge and tools to finance and pursue their post-secondary education, and the non-profit Foundation sponsors several events for all different ages so students can become familiar with the Foundation and the opportunities they provide well before they enter college.  The Student Assistance Foundation continues its commitment to the Helena Symphony and this project to introduce elementary students to the possibilities of higher education.

“The students attending the concert are getting ready to make their transition to middle school” says Kelly Cresswell, Executive Vice President of the Student Assistance Foundation. “We believe this performance, with Helena’s professional orchestra, will inspire students to look at their options on the next leg of their educational journey.”

“This is an enormous effort on the part of the Student Assistance Foundation,” says Symphony President Barb Howe, “and we are thrilled to be able to continue this relationship with the Foundation and provide this unique experience for the students from so many regions.  For many students, this will be their first opportunity to experience a live performance of classical music.”

In addition to the generous support from the Student Assistance Foundation, the MONTANA CREDIT UNION NETWORK has also contributed significant support.  “On behalf of the credit unions in the region, the Montana Credit Union Network is proud to be a part of this wonderful event,” says Montana Credit Union Network President Tracie Kenyon.  “Our credit unions believe in being a part of the community, and bringing the music of the Helena Symphony Orchestra to so many students is an incredible way to make an impact on the people that our credit unions serve.”

This year, the Helena Symphony is proud to present the internationally-noted PLATYPUS THEATRE COMPANY from Ontario, Canada.  The Platypus Theatre Company exists to bring children to music through stories (www.platypustheatre.com).  Since 1989 Canada’s Platypus Theatre has been a trailblazer in creating programs for children that bring classical music to life in an intelligent, entertaining and interactive way.  Critics, educators, musicians, parents and children have lauded the company’s performances for their creativity, originality, and high standards of execution.  The Platypus Theatre’s’ original programs have been seen by over half a million spectators in Canada, the United States, on eight tours to Southeast Asia and most recently, in Australia.  After more than 500 concerts with over 60 orchestras worldwide, the Platypus Theatre has gained an unparalleled reputation for excellence in music education, and will be making their Montana debut at the Student Assistance Foundation Youth Concert.

One media critic hailed, that “the genius of the Platypus Theatre Company lies in an instant yet profound connection with children and that elixir for children’s souls, minds, and imaginations – music.”

Titled Emily Saves the Orchestra, three performers from the Platypus Theatre Company take on several roles, acting, singing, and dancing.  During a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Emily, a spunky 10 year old, is drawn out of her seat and onto the stage by the strains of the beautiful music. But her bold behavior brings her more than she has bargained for as she soon finds herself face to face with the lord of darkness and noise – the terrible monster Cacopholous along with his know-it-all bird Squawk.  Emily battles to save music with her mysterious friend Opus, as she discovers the meaning of rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, and other component to music-making, all explored through the music of the world’s greatest composers.

The annual Student Assistance Foundation 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 the Student Assistance Foundation and the Montana Credit Union Network, the Youth Concert continues to receive support from The Parrott, the Helena Music Teachers Association, The Frozen Moose Yogurt Cafe, Exergy Outreach, several individual patrons, and the Parent Teacher Organizations and administrations from every elementary school in attendance, who also generously provide the busing to the event for their students.

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 Student Assistance Foundation 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 the only and last experience 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 the Student Assistance Foundation and so many other organizations and schools, the Helena Symphony can ensure we continue to help raise the children in our community.  This is so much more than a concert.”


Please contact the Helena Symphony for more information or interviews with Maestro Scott, the Platypus Theatre Company, music educators, or musicians.

Platypus Theatre Company (www.platypustheatre.com)