Let the Symphony Inspire Your Students

Does your local symphony have an education program? Arizona MENC member Margie Porter took advantage of “Inspiration & Imagination,” one of the Phoenix Symphony’s education programs. The concert explores a composer’s creative spark and asks students to investigate their own creativity through painting, poetry, and movement.

The Symphony provided

  • CDs with the concert’s music
  • An informational booklet that included tips on concert etiquette
  • Reproducible puzzles and games
  • Docents to visit schools


Porter collaborated with her school’s art teacher.

  • After listening to some of the selections, students brainstormed about the images suggested, and picked one piece to work from.
  • A cross-curricular exercise, the teachers incorporated visual arts standards as well as National Music Standards 6, 7 and 8.
  • Matting students’ artwork helped ensure their students were always among the competition winners.


Students were delighted with the experience:

  • They were excited to see the Symphony Hall and instruments.
  • They were able to see their own and classmates’ work displayed on a large screen hanging above the orchestra at the concert.
  • They could critique other students’ work.
  • They received reinforcement on what they had heard and learned before the concert.
  • They learned about concert etiquette and the concertgoing experience.


So were the teachers, “It’s pretty spectacular to see your own students’ art on the big screen,” says Porter.

Suggestions to streamline concertgoing

  • Plan early in the year.
  • Anticipate costs going up between registration and concert day.
  • Gather a small amount of money to cover inevitable out-of-pocket expenses.


Not all symphony programs are participatory like “Inspiration & Imagination,” but they’re interesting as well. Sometimes the entire symphony or a few members will come to the school for concerts or activities. Porter says, “These are such valuable opportunities.” If you haven’t already, explore the educational possibilities on your local symphony’s Web site.

Discuss this article. If you don’t have a local symphony or other music ensemble, what ideas do you have for working with your community?

Margie Porter teaches at Arroyo Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona.

–Linda Brown, September 3, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)