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New Bedford Symphony Orchestra

Learning in Concert

NBSO Learning in Concert programs

Learning in Concert is an in-school partnership program with the NBSO and over fifty local elementary schools in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It uses a concept-based arts integration model where a musical concept is explored alongside other art and academic areas that authentically share the same concept. The Learning in Concert program is designed as a unified, comprehensive, three-phase curriculum project spanning an entire school year. The program begins with an in-school, arts integrated assembly concert program, followed by individual classroom lessons partnering NBSO Education Director with individual classroom teachers and students. The third phase is the culminating event where students’ year-long creative work and collaborations are featured and performed at the annual Young People’s Concerts.

2018-2019: Resourceful Composer, Resourceful Planet

This year, the NBSO’s Learning in Concert program explores how the compositional techniques of great composers can also serve to model ways to reduce plastic pollution. Be Like Beethoven: Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, Reduce!

In the 2018-2019 Learning in Concert Program, we will explore three compositional techniques used by masterful composers that also serve as three models to improve the growing plastic pollution problem. The key to a sustainable planet lies within these composers’ resourceful skills. During the composition process, the skillful composer will reuse (repeat), repurpose (modify), and recycle (reconstruct) musical ideas within a piece of music. Use of these techniques has allowed great composers like Beethoven to create beautiful symphonies crafted from a small amount of musical material. Just like Beethoven, these same three techniques of reuse, repurpose, and recycle are also effective actions needed to reduce plastic pollution on our planet.

Each year, over 2 million metric tons of plastics ends up in our oceans, with only 9% of the world’s plastic currently being recycled. This has created a serious problem to our aquatic, airborne and terrestrial environments and to the health of humans and marine and land animals. Throughout the Learning in Concert program, students will explore the concepts of reuse, repurpose, and recycle through musical composition and hands-on, plastic repurposing activities. Through a partnership with the Buttonwood Park Zoo, our students will continue this exploration to learn about the devastating effects of plastic pollution on land and marine life.

2017-2018: The Orchestra as Ecosystem: Symphony Symbiosis

Balance is defined as a condition in which various elements are in proper proportion or arrangement. Within an ecosystem, balance is key in maintaining a harmonious interaction among a biological community of interacting organisms and their environment. Balance is also a vital component in music. A composer’s concern for balance can be heard through the manipulation of many musical elements including form, melody, harmony, rhythm and texture.

The 2017-2018 Learning in Concert program explored the concept of balance in music and ecology. The children explored various ecosystems to analyze whether it demonstrated elements of stability or imbalance. By focusing on ecological instability threatening salt marshes, rain forests and wetlands, the children were able to identify specific actions or ideas that could help restore ecological balance to these areas. In music, the children explored balance in classical music—hearing how composers achieve balance through the orchestration of musical parts among musical instruments. They developed a strong understanding of the various instruments of the orchestra and heard how individual instruments, sections and families interact to achieve balance within a piece of music. Children analyzed balance cross-disciplines by determining niche (the musical part’s role in creating balance within a piece of music and the organism’s role in creating balance within an ecosystem), population (number of the same species within an ecosystem or number of same instruments playing within a piece of music), and biodiversity (how many different musical parts transpire and interact throughout a piece of music or how many different species exist within an ecosystem). Throughout our yearlong exploration, we partnered with local environmental organizations, including the Lloyd Center for the Environment and the Buttonwood Park Zoo.

2016-2017: Gravity in Space and Sound

Gravity is described as the force of attraction between two objects. In our solar system, the gravitational force between the sun and the planets defines their movement through space. In music, there is a force of attraction between notes that is created by tonality. In the 2016-2017 Learning in Concert program, we demonstrated the concept of gravity through astronomy, physics, and music; through exploring gravitational forces operating within our solar system; and by performing classical music that shares these same forces within a musical system. More than 50 schools partnered with the NBSO for our 2016-2017 Learning in Concert program, and Education Director Terry Wolkowicz visited 170 classrooms to work one-on-one with students. Four Young People’s Concerts were presented as the culminating event of Gravity in Space and Sound.

NBSO Education Director Terry Wolkowicz explains it this way: “By exploring the concept of gravity across disciplines we can provide multiple pathways for students to build their understanding of this rich concept. Over the course of the year, our students will explore our solar system from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt while hearing classical music that exemplifies the same gravitational forces through varying harmonic cycles.” For this gravity program, the NBSO collaborated with Amanda Bosh, an astronomer and planetary scientist who teaches courses in observational astronomy at MIT and coordinates observe@MIT, an on-campus opportunity for the MIT community to stargaze. “What a wonderful opportunity to combine music, science, and art to more fully explore the concept of gravity,” Bosh said, “The effect of our own Sun’s gravity is something that I work with daily, as I compare the orbital period of our Earth (1 year) with that of my main topic of study, Pluto (248 years).”

The three-phase Learning in Concert program began in September when students from more than 50 schools across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island participated in an in-school program with NBSO musicians where they heard music that exemplifies gravitational forces between each planet and the sun. During follow-up classroom visits by Ms Wolkowicz, students joined the “Gravity Force” with a mission to explore the forces of gravity. Engaging in hands-on work with a gravity well, students analyzed gravitational forces and investigated the effects of gravity on the motion of moving objects. They also received individualized instruction on composing specific harmonic cycles that revolve like planetary orbits and represent the orbital rate of their chosen planet. Students’ work then became part of the final phase of the program last spring, the annual Young People’s Concerts, where thousands of students came to the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center to hear a live concert with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. The NBSO performed exciting classical music that demonstrates various degrees of gravitational force through harmonic cycles and melody as well as performed student compositions of orbital progressions while video of the “Gravity Force” students at work was displayed.

2015-2016: Adaptations in Motion: Animal and Musical

In Learning in Concert 2015-2016, students followed the transformation from ancient fish to modern day tetrapod, from life in the sea to life on land. Over the course of this three-phase program, students investigated the specific adaptation of locomotion by investigating the anatomy of various organisms to uncover the ways in which they moved, beginning with early aquatic creatures and moving to transitional species like Tiktaalik, the new scientific discovery marking the fish that first emerged from water to begin life on land.

Adaptation in music, often referred to as thematic development or transformation, is described as a gradual, structural change of a musical idea throughout a piece of music. Using vivid examples of classical music performed live by NBSO musicians, the program traced the evolution of a musical idea as it is transformed and adapted throughout a piece of music. By changing the motion of a melody from steps to skips to leaps, from low to high, or gradually accelerating or slowing the rhythmic motion, composers can gradually transform the form, structure and motion of a musical idea.

In the first phase of our program, musical compositions were paired with specific types of locomotion, from swimming to climbing, to running and flying, to hear how classical music demonstrates the same principles of locomotion as shown in various species. Students heard the undulating rhythmic and melodic motion of fish swimming in the sea; the oscillating, crawling motion of music that moves like a lizard on the land; or even the hopping, jumping motion of music that moves like a kangaroo. We used TRAM (tempo, range and motion) throughout the entire Learning in Concert program as a cross-disciplinary tool to guide the children’s analysis of how music moves and how animals move. Children composed original melodies that imitated specific types of animal locomotion using our giant, magnetic, graphing TRAMboard.

During the second phase of the program, our Education Director visited individual classrooms where our “TRAMologists” continued exploring various forms of motion in music and biology throughout the school year. Each classroom was presented with three motifs that move in a swimming motion. The class then selected a specific type of locomotion for their part of the composition. By analyzing their locomotion using TRAM (Tempo, Range and Motion), the students took one or two of the supplied swimming motifs and gradually transformed and adapted them to move in their selected locomotion. The students graphed their adapted melodies on our large, magnetic, graphing TRAMboard. For example, a class may have taken swimming motif #1 and gradually transformed it so that it moves like a tree climber. The TRAMboard allowed students to compose music even if they were unfamiliar with standard musical notation. The students used magnetic shapes that varied in length to match the different rhythmic values. The students placed these shapes on the board from low to high to indicate a specific pitch. The TRAMboard gave students the ability to create contour, control melodic motion and vary rhythmic values by using this user-friendly system of graphic notation. Even though the students were not composing using standard musical notation, they did the real work of composers, where musical elements are manipulated and controlled to achieve a specific, desired effect. All classroom melodies were collected and combined to create the new piece for orchestra, Adaptations in Motion.

In the third and final phase of our 2015-2016 Learning in Concert program, the NBSO’s 2016 Young People’s Concert featured the World Premiere performance of Adaptations in Motion. Over 3,000 local student composers, using various compositional techniques, skillfully created musical adaptations that replicated through music the gradual progression of ancient species who moved from swimming and gliding in water to crawling, climbing, jumping, flying and running on land.

Feature Articles

Connect, the AZA magazine:
SouthCoast Today:
Eastman School of Music Institute for Music Leadership:
The Herald News:

For more information about the program, including registration, email Education Director Terry Wolkowicz or call 508-999-6276.

Learning in Concert and Young People's Concerts

Resourceful Composer, Resourceful Planet
©2018 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

The Orchestra as Ecosystem:
Symphony Symbiosis
©2017 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

Gravity in Space and Sound
©2016 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

Adaptations in Motion:
Animal and Musical
Music and Motion
©2015 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

Contrast Connections
©2014 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

Agents of the SDA
©2013 Terry Wolkowicz
All Rights Reserved

2018-2019 Participating Schools

Acushnet Elementary
All Saints Catholic School
Ashley Elementary
Assawompset Elementary
Brooks Elementary
Campbell Elementary
Carney Academy
Center Elementary
Congdon Elementary
Coyle and Cassidy Middle School
DeMello Elementary
DeValles Elementary
Dighton Elementary School
Fonseca Elementary
Fort Barton Elementary
Friends Academy
Gomes Elementary
Hathaway Elementary
Hayden McFadden Elementary
Henry Lord Community School
Holy Family-Holy Name School
Holy Trinity School
Jacobs School
Letourneau Elementary
Lincoln Elementary
Nativity Preparatory School
Our Sisters' School
Pacheco Elementary
Parker Elementary
Pocasset Elementary
Potter Elementary
Pulaski Elementary
Quinn Elementary
Ranger Elementary
Renaissance School
Rochester Elementary
Rodman Elementary
St. Francis Xavier
St. James-Saint John School
St. John School
St. John the Evangelist School
St. Joseph School
St. Margaret’s School
St. Mary's School
St. Michael's School
St. Philomena School
St. Pius X School
Sippican Elementary
Spencer Borden Elementary
Swift Elementary
Tansey Elementary
Taylor Elementary at Sea Lab
Westport Elementary
Wilbur McMahon School
Winslow Elementary
Wood School

Education Sponsors:

First Citizens Bank logo

  • Elsie R. Fraga
  • Parsons Family Education Fund
  • St. Aidan's Chapel
  • June Strunk

This program is supported in part by a generous grant from the American Orchestras' Futures Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras made possible by funding from the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation.

The Learning in Concert Program is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as well as by grants from the following Local Cultural Councils, which are local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency: Acushnet, Dighton, Fairhaven, Fall River, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Rochester, and Westport.

Thank you to Concerts at the Point for their generous support of our Learning in Concert program in Fall River, Westport, Somerset, and Tiverton elementary schools. Thank you to Up with School Arts for their generous support of our program in Wilbur McMahon School and Holy Family-Holy Name School.