St. Louis Symphony Class Bridges Music And Science For Children And Families

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra plans to teach elementary and middle school students about the science behind music.

The orchestra plans to do so through SoundLab, a four-part educational series of 15-minute online classes families can register for. Orchestra musicians will perform in the sessions, which will be followed by activities for students and parents.

The free program aims to get more children interested in science and the arts, said Jessica Ingraham, the orchestra’s education director. She hopes children finish the courses with an understanding of how music and technology relate to one another and the science of how and why music relates to people on an emotional level.

“I think now more than ever, it’s really important for kids to have some way to express how they’re feeling.” Ingraham said. “I really hope that SoundLab, especially with families, gives them an outlet to start to kind of have these conversations about how we’re feeling on a on a day-to-day basis right now and just really be able to open that dialogue and explore all those feelings through music in a way that is accessible and non-threatening.”

The orchestra will host live 30-minute watch parties on its website each weekend. Hosted by St. Louis-based teaching artist and SoundLab narrator Alicia Revé Like and student participant Imogen Degenhart, the watch parties will feature interviews with orchestra members and a live viewing of the episodes.

Families can RSVP for the livestream on the orchestra’s website. Viewers who complete the activities can enter to win a competition to meet an orchestra member and hear them perform. Teachers can also register for the program, which includes other activities for students.

While the orchestra was planning to produce the segments as in person education concerts before the coronavirus pandemic, hosting the programs online allows orchestra personnel to reach a wider audience, Ingraham said.

“When the pandemic hit, eventually, we kind of realized that in-person education concerts were not going to be a thing this year,” Ingraham said. “We kind of quickly had to pivot our thinking, and figure out how we could still kind of keep the sound lab idea alive in a completely virtual world.”

The orchestra is collaborating with St. Louis-based Breach, which promotes science and technology education. The organization provided the online accounts for teachers and classrooms wanting to offer SoundLab activities in schools. Children can approach science and the arts with equal enthusiasm, Breach CEO Ronnie Notch said.

“What Breach wants from that is to be able to create this very organic natural relationship which can last for generations,” Notch said. “They can come back two years from now and remember a course or a concert, virtual or physical, in person that they were able to attend. Hopefully, that was one of the little moments that sparked the trajectory and the course of their life going forward.”

SoundLab episodes

  • Episode 1: Feel the Sound – Learn about the scientific and emotional impact of sound waves.
  • Episode 2: Building a Bridge of Sound – Discover how sound travels and how it can express a kaleidoscope of emotions.
  • Episode 3: Sonic Conversations – Look at how music creates dialogue and explore the science behind pitch and volume.
  • Episode 4: The Golden Record Explore an endless index of unique sounds, that encourage students to explore and create individual soundscapes.

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