A Musical Partnership - Akron Symphony Orchestra

A Musical Partnership

It’s good to have friends in the community, especially when they share your passion for music.

As part of its commitment to help area schools enhance their musical education offerings, musicians from the Akron Symphony Orchestra spent time in the fall working with students in Rich Eder’s class at Akron North High School.

During the course of four class periods, string players Linda Johnston, Paul Miakhy, Aaron Mossburg and Ann Gilbert worked directly with the 13 students that comprise the school’s orchestra.

Video: Student Angela M. shares her experience

“Having the Akron Symphony members work with the students is a wonderful opportunity,” said Eder, the school’s director of music & drama and who is in his 13th year at North High School. “With social media, students today can watch professional musicians play, but that is not the same as having the opportunity to work with someone in person.

“The students loved playing together as a group, and it was helpful from a teaching perspective for them to hear what they need to do to improve from someone other than me. With the support of the Akron Symphony we hope to continue this partnership and help the kids discover the possibilities of where music can take them.”

Hearing the perspective of a professional musician resonated with senior Samantha Laughlin, who has been playing the viola since fifth grade.

“It was great to work with the musicians because they told us that it is OK to tweak the music a little bit while we learn it because it is all about making the music sound great,” Laughlin said. “I loved the idea when I first heard about it and it was great to receive professional feedback on our work.”

Ann Gilbert, who has been with the Akron Symphony since the 1990s and is the current principal bass, came away impressed by the enthusiasm of the students.

“I had such a good time and the students I worked with were polite and awesome,” Gilbert said. “They seemed so happy that we were there and so responsive to what we were doing. We played together at the end with the group and we really sounded good together. I would love to go back and work with bass players Isaiah Jones and Javion Rivers.”

The opportunity to share her knowledge with the students — not to mention a bass that she donated to the student orchestra — made the experience even more rewarding for Gilbert.

Video: Student Isaiah J. shares his experience

“I personally believe the arts are important to humankind in general. They can help you learn other subjects in school and playing an instrument challenges both sides of your brain,” Gilbert said. “Music is such a joy in my life and I want to share it with others whenever I can. The arts helps you get away from the problems in the world, and since music is the international language it can help people transition to a new environment.

“When they asked me to do it I was thrilled at the opportunity. I have a calling in my life to reach out to other people through music and I couldn’t wait to do it. I love the fact that the Akron Symphony Orchestra wants to do this and we have to keep doing this.”

The orchestra was able to develop the program with the help of Knight Foundation grant and, after seeing the impact the program made on the students at North High, is looking to make it a sustainable program.

“We are very appreciative of the support of the Knight Foundation, which allowed us to develop this program,” said Paul Jarrett, executive director of the orchestra. “We will continue to look for additional support that would allow us to continue this important program not only at North High but expand it into other schools within our community.”