Classical KDFC partners with the Oakland Symphony and Oakland Unified School District to bring live chamber music to underserved kids.

Mozart moves from the concert stage to the schoolyard as Classical KDFC rolls out the new Playground Pop-Up concert series. The first two events in this innovative program feature top-notch performers from the Oakland Symphony in the informal setting of a public elementary school playground.

“We want to send a message that classical music is for everyone,” says KDFC Chief Engagement Officer Gail Eichenthal. “An elementary school campus is the antithesis of a fancy concert hall, and our programs are highly interactive. Strict concert etiquette goes out the window.”

A pilot of the concept was road-tested on May 22nd at Manzanita Community School, when KDFC on-air host Ray White emceed two 30-minute sets of informal chamber music performances by members of the Oakland Symphony.

KDFC’s Ray White with students of Oakland’s Manzanita Community School at the first ever KDFC Playground Pop-Up

The next Playground Pop-Up concert follows hard on its heels at Franklin Elementary School on Thursday, May 31. Emceed by KDFC’s Rik Malone, the program runs 1-3 pm as part of Creative Expression Day, a campus-wide arts festival. It features three 25-minute sets of chamber music with four players from the Oakland Symphony. The musicians will engage young listeners in a kid-friendly mix of live performance and snippets of music lore.

The pop-up concert program runs the gamut from “Angry Birds” to the “Bird Catcher’s Song” in Mozart’s Magic Flute, along with excerpts from “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” (Britten/Purcell), Scottish folk songs and a Sousa march.

Cellist Beth Vandervennet speaking to the students

“Educators increasingly prioritize STEAM over STEM,” says Fillmore Rydeen, director of arts education for Oakland Unified School District, a partner in the Playground Pop-Up project. “We now realize the power of an arts-embracing strategy to producing well-rounded, engaged, thoroughly educated students.”

The Playground Pop-Up series builds on the success of a similar program introduced last November by KDFC’s sister station, Classical KUSC in Southern California. To date, five KUSC Playground Pop-Up concerts have exposed hundreds of underserved schoolchildren in South and East Los Angeles to musicians from the LA Philharmonic, LA Opera, Street Symphony and the USC Thornton School of Music.
“We’re excited to launch this series in the Bay Area as part of our growing outreach initiatives for kids and families,” Classical KDFC President Bill Lueth says. “We’re striving to bring classical music and the arts to underserved communities and to children who might otherwise never hear classical music live, if at all.”

Classical KDFC hopes to eventually bring Playground Pop-Ups to more Oakland public schools, as well as elementary campuses in the Richmond district of San Francisco, East Palo Alto and San Jose. Station officials are seeking funding to expand the project.