Mission Statement: The San Antonio Symphony’s education programs strive to establish lifelong learning for all ages and segments of our diverse community by promoting the enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of symphonic music.
The San Antonio Symphony has been working to bring music educational programs to the schoolchildren of Bexar County for 75 years. One important reason why the Symphony reaches out to almost 50,000 students annually is because of a vast body of new research that points to a correlation between music learning and increased academic participation and ability. According to Americans for the Arts, students who participate in the arts for at least three hours a week for one year are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. The Texas Music Educators Association has shown that students of the arts continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, across the board. See more music education facts and statistics!
One major part of the Symphony’s education program is our award-winning Young People’s Concert (YPC) Series. The Tobin for the Performing Arts is a Presenting Partner for this program. Young People’s Concerts are offered as a free-admission, educational field-trip opportunity for area elementary schools and homeschool families. Through the YPC Series, students discover the unique and intriguing relationships that orchestral music can have with core curriculum subject areas and other disciplines. Geared towards third, fourth, and fifth grade students, Young People’s Concerts engage students with interactive components as well as carefully planned and highly-educational programs of music and lecture, often with the addition of invited guests. Free educational materials provided to teachers in advance of each program include a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide with built-in classroom activities and access to an online playlist of the concert music selections.
For over 40 years, the San Antonio Symphony League has sponsored an annual Paint to Music Contest for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students attending at least one Young People’s Concert during the season. The purpose of the contest is to encourage children to explore the language of music and the role that classical music can play in enhancing creative expression through art. During the 2015-16 season, 69 schools and almost 4,000 students participated! In a culminating showcase of multiple art forms, selections from the winning entries are projected above the orchestra during the corresponding music selections at a designated Young People’s Concert during the year.
Another major component are our fun-filled Family Concerts on select Sunday afternoons. The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts is a Presenting Partner for these programs. While designed for children age 4-11, Family Concerts can be enjoyed by people of all ages! Each concert program is preceded by an hour of Pre-Concert Activities for Kids, including musical crafts and games, and our ever-popular Instrument Petting Zoo, where kids (and the young-at-heart) have the opportunity to try out a multitude of musical instruments with the guidance of Symphony musicians. Our famed mascot, Count Bassie (a.k.a. Puffy Bajo), has also been known to make appearances at Family Concerts.
The Symphony also offers several free-admission Open Rehearsals each season for middle, high school and college students. Students witness first-hand how a professional ensemble rehearses while being exposed to masterpieces of our Classics series repertoire. Students also have the unique opportunity to interact with world-renowned Music Director, Sebastian Lang-Lessing or a guest artist in a post-rehearsal Q&A session.
Each season, a guest artist from the Symphony’s Masterclassics Series presents an annual Russell Hill Rogers String Master Class for advanced string students of all ages. The 2016 master class on May 22 featured violinist Sarah Chang. The 2017 class on January 11 features violinist Kolja Blacher.
The Symphony’s Associate Conductor, Akiko Fujimoto, presents a Classical Conversation prior to all 28 Classics Series concerts. Classical Conversations offer a unique opportunity for concert-goers to ask questions and learn detailed information about the program in advance. Classical Conversations normally start at 7:15 pm in the Tobin Center East Rotunda. Symphony orchestra members also offer “Ask a Musician,” through which anyone attending a Classics concerts can approach musicians during intermission to ask questions related to the music or being a musician.
In addition to our many educational programs, several Symphony guest artists make visits to local schools and universities every year to work with advanced students. Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing is also actively involved with schools, as well as programs aimed at adults.
Symphony musicians and small ensembles also visit nursing homes, hospitals and other locations to perform and talk to those who can not attend our concerts. One of the most powerful ways the Symphony influences music education in our community is by bringing our talented musicians to San Antonio. Many of our musicians teach privately, coach in area middle and elementary schools and serve on the faculty of local colleges. The Symphony musicians as a whole form a cornerstone of the music education system in San Antonio.