Simon Boyar with students at the Strings Music Pavilion

Even though Steamboat Springs isn’t the center of an arts and culture hub, our young music students have the same opportunities as students from a big city.

In the early part of November, the best music students of the region gathered together in Aspen as part of the Northwest Honor Band. This year, 13 Steamboat Springs High School students were represented as part of the 100-piece hand-picked band. High school band director Jim Knapp says the students he nominated “are all very committed and dedicated, and it showed in how they achieved: they all ranked very high in their sections.”

The Northwest Honor Band lets the best music students perform together, expanding their repertoire to more challenging music than they typically play at school. “It’s inspiring to see all these different music students come together and put something together like that,” said Honor Band student Samantha Trahan.

But closer to home there are more opportunities for young musicians. Two high school flutists performed in the flute choir under the direction of Ernest Richardson, Music Director for the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra (SSO). A branch of the orchestra, the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra Education Ensembles Concert is a place where non-professional community musicians, including youth, have the chance to play and perform. “It was really neat to play with a group of flutists who are better than me and who I can really learn from,” 14-year-old Melissa Requist said after the rehearsal.

While Richardson was here, he also visited the schools to lead rehearsals and workshops. The Lark Ascending, a Vaughn Williams composition, was certainly the highlight of the concert, and Richardson led discussions in the schools regarding how the piece made the students feel. Richardson was pleased with the strong reactions from the students and said, “When children have this visceral response to music, it affirms its power. It just takes a moment to be presented to someone, and slowly it becomes more and more meaningful.” At the SSO holiday concert, young string players performed Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming with the orchestra, further increasing youth performance opportunities.

This boom in extra-curricular music education took off in 2007 when Strings Music Festival launched the Strings School Days program. Strings’ school outreach programs began in 1997 as Youth Touring, where an original show presented the history of the Yampa Valley with music to elementary schools. Today the program involves three weeks of workshops and rehearsals with all school-age music students, field trips where non-music students see a presentation by a professional musician and performances by their peers, and two nights of free community concerts.

Now in its third cycle, we are proud to announce Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) as the next Strings School Days collaborator. DBR is a Haitian-American composer, violinist, and educator, who has performed all over the world, including at the Macau International Music Festival, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the Sydney Opera House. DBR made his Carnegie Hall debut with the American Composers Orchestra performing his Harlem Essay for Orchestra, a Whitaker commission.

DBR plans to become the Creative Director for Strings School Days and hopes to incorporate the use of film, video, dance, singing, and spoken word to design a multi-media concert experience. He also hopes to bring local artists and musicians into the program so that the students can create and maintain long-term relationships with community members. DBR says, “These types of initiatives help to define a community and give young people a greater sense of their world beyond the confines of their school, using collaboration as conversation and a means by which every voice counts and is counted.”

Posted on December 7, 2011
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