Approximately 2,100 Vancouver Island grade four students are set to discover the magic of symphony music this January, through the Vancouver Island Symphony’s music education program.

Each year, the Vancouver Island Symphony presents a Symphony Education Show, where ALL grade four students in School Districts #68 and #71 (including private schools on Vancouver Island) have an opportunity to hear an orchestra perform in a theatre. This year, the concert is entitled Inventions.

Mark Beaty, principal bass player with VIS, and education program manager, says, “Every grade four student in Nanaimo and the Comox Valley will be part of this, regardless of other opportunities they have in music. Grade four is just a great age for connecting with kids musically. Developmentally they are still young enough to see music for exactly what it is: magical, mysterious and full of awe. They aren’t too concerned with what their peers think.”

This concert, which takes place January 20 at 9:30 and 11:00 am in Comox (Sid Williams Theatre) and January 21 at 9:30 and 11:00 am at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, is one component of the Symphony’s three-part integrated music education program, in partnership with the school districts.

The other two components are:

The VIS Children’s Choir, an auditioned choir for students in grades 4-7,which will be performing at the Education Show;

The Send a Symphony Musician to School Program, where orchestra musicians visit 57+ schools prior to the Education Show, to demonstrate their instruments and share with the students what they might expect to see at the Education Show.

“The visit is 45 minutes to an hour. I usually start right away with a piece of music and then from there I will interact with the students, explaining how the instrument works,” adds Beaty, who says going into the classroom is a highlight of the season for many of the musicians. “I can talk about the science behind the instrument and make it fun. The bass is great, for example, because its used in so many different kinds of music, so I may play a jazz line, include some folk music and a bit of fiddle music as well.”

By grade four, students are also old enough to handle some of the instruments, and try to create a sound, even though it will sound quite different than when it is being played by a professional during the concert.

This “up close and personal” classroom glimpse of an instrument is available to students at no cost, in the weeks leading up to the concert, by a passionate team of 10 VIS musicians. School districts pay only $1. per child plus transportation to the Education Show. The Symphony fundraises the additional money ($42,000) through sponsorship, in order to present this valuable music education program to all grade fours.

Says Beaty, “I worked a lot with kids and youth when I was young, and I felt like I had a great music education in the public school system. I would like to see that funding return. Part of getting there is to create an appetite and awareness about the value of music and orchestral music.”

Susan Pederson

Vancouver Island Symphony