Students Hearing the Blues in Strathmore This Week
Thousands of fifth-grade students will be hearing the blues this week.
To celebrate the Strathmore Music Center’s 10th anniversary, the arts center collaborated with preeminent jazz education organization JazzReach and Montgomery County Public Schools to commission an entirely new Blues program for its annual 5th grade Student Concerts. More than 11,000 students will experience this new program at Strathmore in North Bethesda from October 21-24.
While JazzReach musicians are in town, they will also visit four of the county’s public schools’ school jazz bands to conduct clinics.
A hallmark Strathmore education program, the Strathmore Student Concerts were created for 2nd and 5th graders, and so far have been heard by more than 100,000 students.
“We intentionally began our life in this building with the pulsating, vital force of children experiencing music, together. Like a heartbeat, these concerts are powerful, central, and unending—every child, every 2nd and 5th grade, every year,” said Strathmore President Monica Jeffries Hazangeles. “We believe each child deserves the chance to interact with live music and musicians, regardless of economics, access, or ability, and that these encounters will shape their sense of what is possible in their lives. For us, the Strathmore Student Concerts are a magical and rhythmic reminder of why we built the Music Center.”
Until this year, the Strathmore Student Concerts focused exclusively on classical music, in partnership with the National Philharmonic. By focusing on the Blues, Strathmore and the county’s school system are introducing students to a quintessential American genre. They partnered with JazzReach to execute their vision because of its reputation as a nationally-recognized nonprofit dedicated to the promotion, performance, creation, and teaching of jazz music.
The new program celebrates the diversity of cultures and traditions that has made American music what it is today. The musicians onstage personify racial and gender diversity—Strathmore and MCPS were insistent that performers be inclusive and representative of the diversity in their community. The concerts were developed in close collaboration with the school system’s music curriculum experts, addressing key concepts fifth-graders will master during the school year. All elementary music teachers have pre-concert lessons to prepare students for their experience and strengthen their understanding of concepts contained in the program. The concerts will also illuminate for students how Blues is the foundation for genres more familiar to them, such as rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, and R&B, according to to press release from Strathmore.
“Our partnership with Strathmore allows thousands of our students each year to experience music in a very unique and powerful way,” said MCPS Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “This new program for grade 5 students will allow them to gain an understanding of the Blues and the important role it plays in the history of American music.”
The fifth-grade student concerts represent a $124,000 investment in the community. Strathmore also hosts a similar program for second graders, bringing the total investment by Strathmore Hall Foundation, Inc. and its sponsors, GEICO, Jordan Kitt’s Music and the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, to $248,000, according to the news release.
Strathmore’s 2nd grade Student Concerts will continue to focus on classical music, in alignment with MCPS curricular goals. Those concerts will be held in November.