It was with disappointment that I read the June 26 article “The color of music,” about the lack of diversity in Twin Cities orchestras. The author lists only two: the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. There is a third Twin Cities professional classical orchestra, you know — the Minnesota Sinfonia! For more than 27 years, the Sinfonia has maintained a busy schedule of 60 performances every year, reaching thousands of our community’s families, including their children through concerts in accessible venues, our “Music in the Schools” and “Youth Outreach” programs. All of our programs are free, and they directly answer the article’s concerns.
The writer of a July 3 letter to the editor responding to the article hits the nail on the head. If the schools don’t provide quality musical experiences, teach kids to play instruments and expose them to classical music, they are not likely to become musicians and they will seldom, if ever, have the chance to hear the magic of classical music beautifully played.
That’s where the Minnesota Sinfonia comes in. Each year, the Sinfonia crafts a special curriculum for elementary schoolchildren using state academic guidelines. The orchestra’s Music in the Schools program is presented at 18 to 20 inner-city public schools, where the poverty rate often reaches more than 90 percent. For several months, the kids learn how classical music expands their minds and helps make learning difficult academic subjects easier. And on “Sinfonia Day,” the full orchestra travels to their school, where students first meet individual Sinfonia musicians, then hear first-class performances of the music they have been studying, watch their own school choirs perform with the Sinfonia, and enjoy an enchanting performance by African-American actress and storyteller extraordinaire, Kathleen Hardy. Over the past 27 years, we have received thousands and thousands of thank-you letters from the students with comments such as “You guys rock,” “I loved your music” and “Please come back to our school.” One seventh-grader wrote: “I am a drummer. I never realized the importance of math to my music until I watched your program [The Magical Mysteries of Math and Music]. Now I am going to study my math!”
Music in the Schools reaches up to 10,000 students every year.
Another Sinfonia program, Youth Outreach directly involves young people wishing to advance their abilities in classical music. This summer, 46 young musicians will rehearse and play with us at the Lake Harriet Band Shell to an audience of more than 2,000.
We are — and have been for decades — giving young people experiences in high-quality classical music and supporting their achievements. At no cost to them or their schools, by the way.
This, I believe, deserves the attention of the Star Tribune and the public. Our website, mnsinfonia.org, details all of our programs.
Bruce L. Humphrys is chairman of the Minnesota Sinfonia board of directors.