This weekend, about 300 local students will flock to Chautauqua Institution to be part of a multi-generational musical experience: an energetic, community-building concert with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.
At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30 in the Amphitheater, the CSO and the students will present Chautauqua’s first-ever Link Up concert. “Link Up: The Orchestra Sings” is the result of a year-long effort to encourage creative music-making in children, and organizers think the program will have great results for the community.
Link Up is a program with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, which connects students in third through fifth grades with professional orchestras like the CSO. At this concert, children from local elementary and middle schools will sing and play string instruments or recorders, backed up by the professional musicians of the CSO.
Director of Arts Education Suzanne Fassett Wright said she hopes the concert will be an energetic experience for the performers, their families and all Chautauquans.
“The Chautauquans who normally attend concerts, we hope that they come to experience this with (the students),” Wright said. “We hope it has more of a rock concert atmosphere — not the loudness, but the energy.”
While about 100 orchestras participate in Carnegie’s Link Up program, Wright said the CSO’s program will be one of the few that invites an outside audience, rather than just performers’ families and classmates. She hopes that, by connecting generations in one concert, the Institution can celebrate the CSO’s 90th year in a big, community-focused way.
“We hope that it will be this big, joint music-making activity,” Wright said. “What better way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra than to bring generations together, to experience the orchestra together, to be a part of the music-making?”
According to Wright, the performers are not the only ones with the opportunity to make music — Chautauquans in the audience can join in as well.
“Even if community members had their string instruments and wanted to play along, if anyone had a recorder and wanted to play along, we hope that everyone sings and joins in the music-making — not just the students,” Wright said. “I would love to lift the roof off the Amp with a rousing rendition of ‘Ode to Joy.’ That would be fabulous.”
Community, Wright said, is key for this performance.
“Music and the arts are about self-expression, but they’re also about community,” Wright said. “We hope that people will leave this event feeling that they’ve broadened their community — the Chautauqua community is all of us.”
During the past year of planning and preparation, Wright visited local schools and learned more about students’ communities. Now, she hopes the concert will emphasize community not just within the Institution, but also with its neighbors.
“We’re hoping to merge those communities,” Wright said.
While Link Up is in its first year at Chautauqua, CSO Conductor and Music Director Rossen Milanov is no stranger to the program. Not only did he work to develop Link Up locally, he has conducted a number of similar concerts in the past — including a Link Up event at Carnegie Hall that featured over 15,000 students from New York City.
Milanov said this concert is the culmination of several years of hard work at Chautauqua.