Atlee High School orchestra students have a chance to break barriers with musicians from Richmond’s symphony.
The partnership places Atlee orchestra students with top Richmond conductors and musicians and will continue until mid-November.
Erin Freeman, of the Richmond Symphony, directs the Atlee Orchestra as part of Symphony@School.
“I hope that they become musical citizens and attend the concert as well as understand that the Richmond symphony’s [musicians are] music people just like their music teacher and that they’re approachable,” said Melissa Jones, the school’s orchestra director.
Jones applied for the Richmond symphony program, Symphony@School last Spring. The program consists of two in-school performances by the Richmond Symphony String Quartet as well as several rehearsals with two directors in preparation for a fall concert Oct. 24. Then, musicians from the symphony will coach students in small groups to work with each section of the student orchestra.
“It’s one thing to watch them perform but it’s another thing to actually interact with them and learn from them,” said Taylor Harris, a bass player in the Atlee orchestra. “It’s actually taught me a lot.”
Kendall Leek is excited that she and her classmates get the opportunity to work with these musicians and is mostly looking forward to getting advice so that she can become a more confident violinist.
“[I’m most excited that] we get to listen to them play in front of us and watch their technique and learn from their dynamic changes and they can show us how to incorporate that into how we play,” Leek said.
Eleventh grader Gabriel Hawkins, a viola player, is thankful for the opportunity and inspired by the musicians.
“I think it’s really cool how people of higher standards come in and teach us those higher standards,” Hawkins said.
It’s also a learning experience for Jones, who is able to work with Richmond symphony directors Dr. Erin Freeman and Steven Smith.
“I get to see how they approach, problem solve and inspire,” Jones said. “Not only just their conducting technique, but what do they think about this particular piece of music and their perspective on that.”
Jones is hopeful that this experience will benefit each student in some way or another.
“When [orchestra students] graduate, what do they do with this experience? Hopefully they’ll become more aware of the symphony and the talent in the symphony and become musical citizens,” she said.