NEA Arts Magazine

Pass It On

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra's Music Education Program

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Ming Luke on the right conducting young students

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra's Ming Luke conducting the I'm a Performer concert at a local school. Photo Courtesy of Berkeley Symphony Orchestra

According to Berkeley Symphony Orchestra Education Director Ming Luke, the mission of the orchestra's Music Education Program, a collaboration with the Berkeley (California) School District, "is for every single student in the district, not just the best ones, but for every single one of them to have a minimum level of music education and experience." A brief excerpt from Luke's conversation with the NEA is below. Read more at http://www.arts.gov/features/index.php?choosemonth= 2009_1.

NEA: Tell me about Berkeley's Music Education Program.

MING LUKE: From the very outset of the program, the idea was that this education program should be in a true collaborative fashion with the school district. [We wanted to look at] what the district music teacher's needs are and create programs that are beneficial for all of them, not just impose [a curriculum] on a district. . . . We're at all 11 elementary schools every single year with a program that is tailored to each grade's curricula.

NEA: How is the program structured?

LUKE: The primary focus for the education program is that it's not hit-and-run music education. The goal of the education program is to have as many interactions with the students over the course of an entire year as possible. The three major components of the program are musician visits and Meet the Symphony concerts [in the fall], and I'm a Performer rehearsals and concerts in the spring. . . .The music teacher collaborates with the visiting musicians, as well as the classroom teachers, to figure out what would be the best topic for the students to work with. . . . And so, for instance, a fourth-grade string teacher might ask our musicians to have a specific lesson on bow hold as well as give a presentation on what's it like to be a musician. . . . Ideally if the classroom teacher has been using the curricula and the musicians have been talking about the program, [the students] get to a point where [the Meet the Symphony concert] is a live demonstration of the things that they've been hearing. . . .The last major component is the I'm a Performer concerts. This is where every single student in the Berkeley elementary schools performs with the symphony.

NEA: How important is NEA support to the program?

LUKE: To have support coming from all areas of the community is incredibly important to us, whether it's local, regional, or national, as well as various types of funding, individuals, foundations, government entities. . . . It not only provides legitimacy, but it also is symbolic of the way we're trying to structure the program, which is that all areas in the community have feedback and a stake in the program.