Welcome to the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s Education Blog!

We are excited to share with you news and happenings in our ASO Education Department, community and state. We will highlight musicians, music educators, or collaborations with Alabama schools to provide a forum for us all to learn and enjoy.

Many have asked how we have been adapting to the pandemic. I thought this first entry would be a great place to share how ASO Education has approached the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Season. I also wanted to highlight how we are accomplishing online rehearsals, virtual recording projects, and more! 

In March, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, our Youth Orchestra’s Season was cut short. As an organization, we were unable to properly send off our young musicians, in particular, our seniors who had given countless hours of their time and skill to the orchestra over the years. Like a high school graduation, our Spring Concert is the time when ASYO Music Director Kevin Fitzgerald is able to express his gratitude to our young musicians and wish them well on their future endeavors. Like many of our colleagues and schools, we felt a loss. Youth Orchestra Manager, Erin O’Brien, felt the need to make the next Season as compelling and safe as possible.

Kevin and Erin set wheels in motion to complete the Youth Orchestra Season with a virtual, “Pomp and Circumstance” over the summer. The young musicians individually recorded their parts to a click track, and all of their videos were compiled into a video celebrating the graduating seniors. It was so successful that this project inaugurated the planning for a virtual fall semester, the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra Online.

Erin navigated her way through Google Classroom and Bitmoji Classroom to create a friendly, engaging virtual environment where our young musicians could have a sense of community outside of the physical rehearsal space. Surveys concluded that students wanted to meet and were willing to do so online, adding to their already busy virtual school schedule. 

Over the course of planning the semester, a partnership began with guest speakers, the Birmingham Boys Choir, and others. Our young musicians have even incorporated themes like, “Bring Your Pet to Rehearsal Day” and “Trivia Day” into their weekly meetings. With another virtual video recording project complete, students are starting to see the fruits of their labor. Kevin Fitzgerald stresses the importance of continuing on as a group while using this opportunity to build independent musicianship and accountability. 

Also joining the Education Team this Season is Cassandra Flores-Everett as the instructor of an online Fundamentals of Music Theory class. Cassandra is currently a doctoral student at the University of Alabama and teaches at Shelton State Community College. A native of Texas, Cassandra’s instrument is the flute and is a DMA candidate under the instruction of Dr. Diane Boyd Schultz. We are so excited to have her on board and the ASYO students have been enjoying their time with her after their regularly scheduled Zoom rehearsals. 

These young musicians are playing on and determined to weather this pandemic the best way they know how- through beautiful music, teamwork and continuing to adapt their skills. In October, the Youth Orchestra premiered their  latest project, “The Bamboula” by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  We can’t wait to share future projects with you all, including a special Veterans Day collaboration with the Birmingham Boys Choir in November! 

by Maria Wilson, ASO Education Initiatives Manager