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Schoolhouse Symphony Serves Students

Laura A. Hobson
Posted: Jan 13, 2016 - 5:22:04 PM in news_2016

Most people know about Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; not everyone knows about School House Symphony based in Cincinnati as well.

A hidden musical treasure, School House Symphony consists of six musicians who play clarinet, bass trombone, cello, flute, French horn and violin, and perform at public schools throughout the Tri‐State.

For the 2015 – 2016 season, SHS celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Glenn Proffit, who plays trombone, joined a recent conversation with Laura Sabo, clarinetist, over lunch. They described the organization, which doesn’t use a stage. The group sits on the floor of a school so the kids can interact with the musicians.
SHS’s approach includes a series of three or four performances at one school presented throughout the school year. The audience is limited to 130 school children per performance for a 30 to 40‐minute show.

In 2015, School House Symphony performed over 300 performances at 90 different schools reaching 20,000 kids from pre‐school to eighth grade. The symphony offers a curriculum tailored to pre‐school, elementary and junior high students. Selections include introduction to instruments, American music history, elements of music (such as melody, harmony and rhythm), and Cincinnati’s musical heritage. The repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant to rock and roll. Peter in the Wolf by Prokofiev is the standard by which kids are introduced to various instruments in the orchestra.
The members of the group alternate playing and speaking. “We’re expressing our own feelings about music,” said Sabo. “We’re in the trenches. The kids get to know us by name.”

In addition to Sabo and Proffit, the group consists of Jennifer Araya, cello; Julie Baker, flute; Bernard Todd Filter, French horn and Kazuko Platt, violin. Their background includes performances with the Dayton Philharmonic, the Hamilton‐Fairfield Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra. Many have advanced music degrees as well as private studios where they teach.

All audition for SHS. It is a day job: Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. By combining teaching with performing, SHS not only provides cultural enrichment, but also presents musical concepts, history and culture, which help open young minds to a world of new experiences through music, according to SHS’s website. Word of mouth often translates to more gigs. School House Symphony is well known among schools in the Tri‐State. If a new principal joins the school, however, there is less institutional memory about the group.

Performances are available on a sliding scale. According to Sabo and Proffit, there are no other projects like this in the city. SHS not only performs at schools; it plays throughout the community.

This year, it will perform at the Cincinnati Art Museum on Saturday, April 2 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. as part of its Family First Saturday series. In addition, SHS will play in The Constella Festival on April 17 at 8:00 p.m. at Northside Tavern where Classical Revolution often performs. The concert is free and open to the public.

SHS has also played at Music Live held at Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati Art Museum, local libraries, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens and as part of the ArtsWave sampler.

Because the $100,000 budget for SHS is small, the group is looking for additional funding. When the economy tanked, SHS lost 50 shows. Last year, SHS was back where it wanted to be. Organizations which provide financial support to SHS include Charles H. Dater Foundation, William O. Purdy, Jr. Foundation, ArtsWave and The Corbett Foundation. “We do it because we love it,” said Proffit. “The kids are excited when they come.” School House Symphony teaches tomorrow’s audience today."