Festival connects musicians to local students

The Festival of Young Musicians was held at the Kimmel Center on Feb. 16.

The sound of 250 musicians tuning and warming up their instruments filled Verizon Hall, but it wasn’t the Philadelphia Orchestra that was set to perform.

On Feb. 16, a concert featuring musicians from elementary and middle schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding area was held in celebration of the third annual Philadelphia Festival of Young Musicians. The annual festival brings high-achieving youth together to celebrate music education in the Philadelphia area.

The student orchestra and choir, under the direction of Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Lio Kuokman and composer/conductor Melissa Malvar-Keylock, spent the day rehearsing in small groups and large ensembles for the culminating festival in the evening. The groups collaborated on the finale of the festival, a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Hosted by CBS 3’s Ukee Washington, the concert showcased the collective talents of these student musicians.

Mayor Nutter addressed the audience and spoke of the importance music and arts programs have in education. Nutter recounted his own experience with music education, noting that the worst decision he made in high school was not continuing his study of music.

The Music Preparatory Division of Boyer College of Music and Dance helped found the festival and is one of 13 organizations in participation with the annual Philadelphia Festival of Young Musicians. Music Prep is the non-credit division of Boyer that provides music education for young community members in the surrounding area.

“One of the ideas was to try and create a festival that addressed kids who are a little bit younger, who are interested and avid about their instrumental study, but younger than the ones who are selected for things like the Philadelphia All City festivals,” said Mark Huxsoll, director of the Music Preparatory Division.

Collaborating organizations formed the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth, known as PMAY, after its successful inaugural festival.

Music Prep hosts numerous programs within Boyer that focus on instrumental, vocal and dance instruction, many of which are university-funded.

The program meets on Main Campus and involves both Temple graduate students and professional musicians in the area. Huxsoll said the musicians give lessons to “students from the school district who may otherwise not be able to afford lessons.”

“By and large, regular instruction is done by some of the best professionals in Philadelphia,” Huxsoll said.

Frank Machos, director of music education for the School District of Philadelphia, said Music Prep has strengthened the relationship between Temple and the surrounding community.

“Temple’s [Music] Prep is one of our strongest cultural partners,” Machos said. “We value the opportunities they give to our kids, in that they offer private lessons, small group instruction and outside ensemble opportunities.”

Machos said the school district is working with Music Prep to better serve students. He noted that many teachers in the school district are Temple graduates.

“Some of our teachers actually teach through Temple Prep,” Machos said. “Our teachers are working for them, in our schools and with our kids. It’s a unified effort. We get a great opportunity to cycle through the different phases of instruction for our kids and build lasting relationships.”

Tim Mulhern can be reached at tim.mulhern@temple.edu.

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