Orlando Philharmonic's "Symphonic Stories" engages students

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Second graders at Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center plan out their production as Orlando Philharmonic violinists Olga Ferroni and Joni Bjella, and teaching artist Jeff Brown provide musical accompaniment.
ORLANDO, Fla. —

Over the past five weeks, second graders at Rock Lake Elementary School and Grand Ave Primary Learning Center have been working with professional teaching artists from Mary Palmer and Associates, Florida Alliance for Arts for Education, and Orlando Repertory Theatre as part of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s Symphonic Stories program, which teaches students about science, music and theatre, and helps students to work together to create an original theatrical production based on their classroom studies. On Tuesday, February 26, students will share their production, called George and the Peanut Butterfly, for their parents and peers, featuring student-made puppetry, backdrops and costumes, and live musical accompaniment by Orlando Philharmonic musicians. These events are the very first productions of the Orlando Philharmonic’s Symphonic Stories program.

“Even our most challenging students have been highly engaged with this process,” said Abigail New, who teaches at Grand Avenue. “Students are learning and remembering science concepts through signing and dancing. It taps into their multiple intelligences, and helps them master concepts they otherwise would struggle with.”

Orlando Philharmonic Education Director Leia Barrett says Symphonic Stories was developed using the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards as a guide, taking into account when students would be studying the material, which subject matter often causes problems for students, and what teachers felt would be most beneficial for the students.

“When students experience a program like Symphonic Stories, everyone gets something unique out of the experience,” said Barrett. “Some studenst gain valuable memory devices for important core topics, some teachers are inspired to use music or theatre to teach concepts, and a few children find a love for music they might have never known was there.”

George & The Peanut Butterfly is an imaginative story about George Washington Carver which incorporates history, geography and biology. In the story, George walks across the United States meeting cotton farmers, who tell him that cotton will no longer grow. He investigates and realizes the soil is deprived of the nutrients needed to grow the cotton. Out of the soil appears a butterfly with a body that looks like a peanut, and helps George realize that planting peanuts will help repair the soil. He tells the farmers this. While at first they refuse to grow peanuts because they are not profitable, George shows the farmers the many uses for peanuts, and they eventually agree to plant them. The soil is repaired, and the farmers live happily ever after.

Symphonic Stories is supported by a grant from Walt Disney World Resort’s Helping Kids Shine initiative, which supports organizations in Central Florida that inspire creativity and innovation, encourage a sense of compassion for others and promote the health and well being of families.

Currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season, the Orlando Philharmonic is Central Florida’s resident professional orchestra, comprised of accomplished musicians recruited from around the world. With more than 125 performances each year, the orchestra provides captivating musical experiences to people of all ages, provides enriching education programs for students and adults, and helps build a rich, sustainable future for symphonic music in the Central Florida community. Learn more at www.orlandophil.org.