KDFC presented its first ‘Playground Pop-Up‘ concert recently, at Manzanita Community School in Oakland. It’s an effort to get underserved schools access to classical music played by professional musicians. A quartet of members of the Oakland Symphony, representing the strings, winds, brass, and percussion presented two half-hour performances for an enthusiastic audience of young students. Cellist Beth Vandervennett was joined by flutist Amy Likar, trumpeter Lenny Ott, and percussionist Ward Spangler.
There’s more information about the outreach program here.
The presentation included musical selections, and a quick overview of the elements required for a concert: musicians, a composers, conductor, and audience. “I live in Oakland, and I’m in Oakland Symphony, and I’m a Oakland Symphony MUSE mentor,” Vandervennett says. “And I work with so many kids, I know what these kids respond to, and if you know your audience it’s great, because it helps you meet them where they’re at.” The Playground Pop-Up program is beginning in schools from within the Oakland Unified School District, but there are aims to expand into other locations, like Richmond, San Jose, and East Palo Alto, with local musicians. In showing the important role a conductor plays, volunteer kids have a quick lesson in what to do, and then are handed a baton. “Lenny introduces that really beautifully,” Vandervennett says. “Because we do one student, and then he changes it to the other, and he says ‘Is it going to be exactly the same?’ And most everyone says ‘Yes!’ But it isn’t, and he tries to make that point. This is a different person, they have a different interpretation. So it’s a part of the show that I love… I really love getting the kids involved. In today’s world, unfortunately, with most kids, we can not sit them down and expect them to listen to thirty minutes of classical music. This is a way that we open the door to invite them, so they get what a conductor does. And I think they really feel it.”