CANTON  The Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has been performing for children since 1950 when then Music Director Louis Lane conducted a free concert for 1,500 area students. The performances became popular and eventually transformed into other educational programming such as the Kinder Concert, Young People’s Concert and SymphonyLand programs that are performed every year. 

Director of Education and Community Engagement, Irene Baker, stated in an email interview that SymphonyLand is the newest program. It was introduced in 2010.

"SymphonyLand is a series of trio performances that introduce young children, ages 3-6, to the instruments of the orchestra one family at a time," Baker wrote. "The string trio performed in January. The woodwind trio will perform in February and the Brass trio in March. Each trio performance is programmed around a different children’s story book and features traditional orchestra repertoire. Although each performance stands on its own, the concepts are reinforced from one to the other."

Baker wrote the focus of all of CSO’s education programs is to move the young audiences beyond entertainment and exposure by aligning all concert materials and repertoire to the Ohio Department of Education’s Learning Standards in Music and other subject areas such as Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Math. For the 2017-18 season, the focus is on life science themes. 

Mike Kowscso was playing the cello for the audiences on Jan. 10 at the Zimmerman Symphony Center in Canton. He explained how the different speeds of vibration create different sounds in instruments.

"Large things like the cello vibrate slower and make lower sounds than smaller string instruments such as the violin or the viola," Kowscso told the audience. "The violin is the smallest instrument we have here today and it makes the highest sound. All of the instruments are string instruments and we can play them by plucking the strings or using a bow," he said.

The SymphonyLand program averages around 20-30 students per performance.  Some audiences are larger when a school group attends including the 10 a.m. performance on Jan. 10 that had more than 100 students when Perry Local Schools had kids visiting.

For that performance, the musicians performed music to enhance the reading of a children’s book titled, "I Dreamt I was a Dinosaur" by Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton. There was much audience participation throughout the performance including talking about the book and learning about the instruments. 

In addition to SymphonyLand trio performances offered to the public at the Zimmerman Symphony Center, through support from The William E. Shanafelt Philanthropic Fund at the Stark Community Foundation, the SymphonyLand trios will also performed at all four Head Start locations in Stark County.

CSO offers many other opportunities for kids and adults to learn more about musical instruments. The CSO held four performances of the Young People’s Concert (grades 3-5) in October where more than 4,600 students from Stark and surrounding counties attended. The Young People’s Concert is is a full orchestra concert in Umstattd Performing Arts Hall.

"Umstattd Hall was completely full for three of the Young People’s Concerts, that’s 1,400 students at each one, and nearly 60 percent capacity for the fourth performance," Baker wrote.  

The Kinder Concert (for ages 3-6) will be performed four times in April. The Kinder Concert has also been at nearly full capacity in recent years, reaching around 600 students at each performance. The Kinder Concert is a full orchestra program featuring excerpts from classical pieces, instrument demonstrations and academic content woven throughout the program.

Baker wrote that the public performances for SymphonyLand and Young People’s Concert are offered free of charge because of funding from The Hoover Foundation and Arts in Stark.  The Kinder Concert has additional support from T. Raymond Gregory and is also offered free of charge.

All of the CSO’s Education Programs are offered to the public as well as school groups. Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more and is strongly encouraged for others. 

Additional information on all of these programs is available at www.cantonsymphony.org/education-programs. Plus, reservations can be made online at www.cantonsymphony.org or by calling the box office at 330-452-2094 (9a.m.-5p.m. weekdays).