Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

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start of a new school year

August 20, 2010

As we approach the 2010-11 school year many individuals are concerned about the economy and education cuts that took place over the summer that will be now directly affecting the year. Recently, I read an article by the organization Partnerships for 21st Century Skills (P21) that address how top executives have some concerns about their future workforce. Currently schools are forced to assess and focus on the skills that are referred to as the three “Rs”, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Many however feel that in the global economy the 4 “Cs”; communication skills, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking are also important and should be better incorporated into our school programs. According to Partnerships for 21st Century Skills many employers are incredibly pleased with their employees’ abilities in communications and collaboration, but feel skills in critical thinking and creativity are weak.

Unfortunately in the current situation the school programs will not be able to add more critical thinking and creativity exercises. This is due to the time constraints that teachers are already facing. The fortunate part of this crisis is that arts organizations are assessing what they can do to help and this is forcing a change in arts education at all levels, especially in elementary schools where band, orchestra, and chorus does not always exist. Many organizations are beginning to open more conversations with the classroom teachers, allowing for a union to form between the two. The overall realization is that parents and communities want to have arts education but the administration feel pressed to fit it in when times are tight.

LACO has changed some of what we are doing as well over the past few years to better work with schools. This year we sent out our Meet the Music school application in the spring to every school principal in LAUSD elementary schools, and as a result we have over 40 schools participating in our program throughout the upcoming season. The response from the principals was proof that the schools want the arts in their classrooms in order to improve the creativity of the students. Due to this, LACO docents will be in the classrooms this season. We will continue to have lesson plans that engage students not only in reading and languages but also incorporate music and musical forms. Some of what we had in the past that will continue is story writing to incorporate music and words, geography to learn where musicians and composers are from and history to gain an understanding of 21st century timelines that relate to both them and new works commissioned by the Orchestra. Each one of these activities promotes what the organization Partnerships for 21st Century Skills addressed in their article.

It is a privilege of the LACO staff, board, and musicians to have the ability and opportunity to step up and work closely with the schools and other organizations to expand the education of the children that are part of the LAUSD elementary schools.

These are just a few of the things that LACO does to help support the cause of education, allowing the creativity and critical thinking of young minds to grow throughout the ups and downs of economic recovery.

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