HOUSTON (Jan. 20, 2017) – The Houston Symphony and Occidental Petroleum announced today a partnership to further the Houston Symphony’s yearlong high school residency program that reaches thousands of Houston-area students. The announcement was made this morning at Houston Baptist University where the Symphony held two student concerts, which are now an official component of the high school residency program.
In its second year, the intensive residency reaches thousands of band and orchestra students annually in eight select high schools across Greater Houston. Students enrolled in these band and orchestra programs have the unique opportunity to meet regularly with Houston Symphony musicians and learn everything from audition and live performance tips, to composition and practice techniques.
“Our goal with this program is to strengthen the incredible school music programs that already exist in our community by facilitating meaningful interactions that students wouldn’t normally have in their classroom,” said Pam Blaine, chief of Education and Community Programming, Houston Symphony. Blaine adds that aside from helping students develop their musical abilities, which is a very important part of the program, “The Symphony also hopes to inspire students to further their love for music, make personal connections with the art form, and acquire essential critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Members of the Houston Symphony’s education department work closely with ensemble and fine arts directors to customize each program based on the particular group’s goals and available resources. Each group then has the opportunity to attend open rehearsals and concerts, work with musicians on mock auditions and related activities throughout the academic year as well as engage in post-rehearsal discussions and sectional coaching activities. Additionally, the students participate in projects with the Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence as well as clinics and live performance workshops with Houston Symphony Associate Director Robert Franz.
In the 2015-16 academic year, the Houston Symphony high school residency program reached a total of 1,000 students, many of whom stepped into a music hall for the first time. According to Standford Lewis, director of band at Chavez High School, the experience furthered their learning and musical goals. “The students are now able to think critically about a performance they hear or engage in and speak to the higher-level aspects of the music. They have moved beyond expressing ideas about the notes, rhythms or chords to talking about the emotions that the music evokes,” said Standford.
This year, the program is on pace to reach more than 1,100 students in part thanks to the support of Occidental Petroleum.
Student Concerts: a key component of the residency program
This is the fourth year that the Houston Symphony holds a student concert at Houston Baptist University and the first year this concert becomes a formal component of the high school residency. Franz led the orchestra in Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, Wagner’s Overture to Tannheuser and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis. While many of the students in attendance have performed the pieces featured on the program, Franz challenged the students to develop their own interpretations of the music and connect with the composers’ intentions for the piece.