September 1, 2014
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10,000 students perform with RI Philharmonic
Don Fowler

While Saturday night’s Rhode Island Philharmonic concert was sold out, with over 2,000 adults enthralled with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the numbers increased five-fold by the 10,000 Rhode Island 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who packed the Vets for six concerts last week.

The students and teachers, including hundreds from Warwick and Cranston, were part of “The Orchestra Moves” program, sponsored by the Philharmonic, Hasbro and a number of benefactors, including Bank of America, which provided funding for the State Council on the Arts’ Big Yellow School Bus program. The yellow buses lined the streets around the Vets Auditorium, as nearly 2,000 students at a time brought their recorders to play along with the orchestra.

Conductor Francisco Noya and host Joe Wilson Jr., an actor at Trinity Rep, capped off a year of music education from the Philharmonic’s Link Up program.

Students were provided with recorders and work books, learning about concert orchestras and classical music, all culminating in an enjoyable, funny (Noya and Wilson had the students laughing while they were learning), and educational hour and a quarter.

The selections were geared toward the young audience, including a rousing rendition of Bizet’s “Toreador” from Carmen, which included a matador with a red cape in the role of Escamillo, and the familiar “Can Can” by Offenbach with students from Festival Ballet. The highlight was the orchestra’s playing of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, with Noya explaining how those familiar four notes are integrated into the symphony. Conductor Larry Rachleff repeated the famous work on Friday and Saturday before packed houses and the loudest applause I can remember at a RIPO concert.

Thanks to this terrific program, which is in its second year (next year “The Orchestra Rocks” concludes the series), is a unique and wonderful opportunity to turn kids on to the power of classical music.

If audience reaction last Tuesday is any indication, many young people will be encouraged to move past the recorder to a more substantial musical instrument, and we may see some of them playing for the RI Philharmonic in the future, or hopefully fill some of the seats at Vets for future concerts.


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