The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra is performing this weekend with some special guests. Third grade students from several elementary schools around the Peninsula will perform with the Orchestra as part of the Link Up program sponsored by Carnegie Hall.
The unmistakable sound of third graders practicing their recorders fills Sue Biggs’ music room at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna as the students prepare for a big concert this weekend in Kenai. I stopped by to learn more about the Link Up program that’s bringing together young musicians from area schools and the more experienced musicians of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. In addition to teaching music courses for the K-6 crowd, Biggs is also Concert Master for the Orchestra. She traveled to New York to visit Carnegie Hall, learn about the Link Up program and perform with elementary students and musicians from around the world.
“I came back with dancing shoes on and involved all of my third, fourth and fifth graders because that’s what the program is established for primarily,” Biggs said. “Another music teacher, Jeanne Duhan, is on board with her third graders at K-Beach Elementary, so even though this is our kick off year, we have now about 350 students who have been involved with learning the Link-Up material to play with the orchestra,” she said.
The instruction at this level is pretty rudimentary, focusing mostly on rhythms. And their part in this weekend’s performance is limited to just one note on the recorder, but Biggs said this class is pretty advanced.
“Not only did they learn to play these songs, they’ve learned at least three notes which is more than we usually know by now and they have learned to read the notes,” Biggs said.
The piece they’ll be performing with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra is by all accounts a standard for young musicians Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy‘.
Exposing students to music at an early age works pretty well in making them more curious about it, Biggs said. Nearly every hand in the room shot up when the kids were asked if they wanted to pursue music further and learn new instruments as they get into fourth and fifth grade.
“I think a lot of that is just because we play a lot of recorder and rhythm instruments. We connect ourselves early with instruments in our classroom,” Biggs said.
Third graders from Redoubt and K-Beach Elementary schools will perform this Saturday at the Renee Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School at 2 pm. Students from MacNeil Canyon School in Homer will share the stage with the Orchestra on Sunday at 2 pm at Homer Mariner Theatre.