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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Violinist Elliott Markow plays with a string quartet for sixth graders during a Nashua Symphony Association presentation at Fairgrounds Middle School in Nashua Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Members of the Nashua Symphony Association play for sixth-graders at Fairgrounds Middle School in Nashua Wednesday, March 7, 2012. The string quartet is comprised of, from left, violinists Elliott Markow and Raluca Dumitrache, cellist Nathaniel Lathrop, and Emily Rome with the viola.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Emily Rome reacts to the applause from sixth-graders following a Nashua Symphony Association presentation at Fairgrounds Middle School in Nashua Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nashua Symphony Orchestra connects music to curriculum, plays Tchaikovsky for 6th-graders

Cameron Kittle

The sounds of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich filled the gymnasium at Fairgrounds Middle School on Wednesday, as four members of the Nashua Symphony Orchestra performed for Nashua sixth-graders as a way to broaden their musical horizons.

The string quartet played several pieces of music at Fairgrounds, Elm Street and Pennichuck middle schools for its Nashua Youth (h)EARS program, which brings small groups from the local orchestra to the middle schools to play and tell musical stories that relate to the curriculum.

The performance helped sixth-grader John Carson, 12, see the connections between classical music and his musical genre of choice.

Carson plays bass guitar in a metal band with his friends.

“I could relate to so much stuff in classical music because a lot of the notes are the same as metal,” he said. “What they did was amazing. I’d like to be like that one day.”

Jonathan McPhee, composer and music director for the Nashua Symphony Orchestra, said that’s exactly the type of connection the program is intended to make.

The outreach is an effort to share different styles of music with the kids and give them some perspective, he said.

“For a lot of these kids, this is the only time they’ll get to hear classical music,” McPhee said. “That’s important because it makes so many connections beyond the basics of learning.”

At Fairgrounds, he told folktales from Norway before the quartet played a piece by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and talked about the connection between music and nationalism for a piece by Charles Ives.

“We try to connect it with the curriculum so it’s relevant for the students,” McPhee said.

He also introduced his colleagues and their stringed instruments – violin, viola and cello. Elliott Markow and Raluca Dumitrache played violin, while Emily Rome and Nathaniel Lathrop joined them on viola and cello, respectively.

Markow, who serves at the symphony’s concert master and first violinist, said the kids love their small performances. He said part of that comes from learning something completely different and connecting it through classical music, which he called a unique discipline.

“Music is basic to human nature and human expression,” he said. “You can say in music what you can’t say in words.”

Many of the students sat quietly and applauded loudly after each musical number.

The students also are given a chance to ask questions after the performances are over, and it’s the engaging questions that show McPhee the students are listening and learning.

“There seems to be more awareness now, kids are more in tune to who we are than ever before,” he said. “So much that even though it’s new students every year, they’re almost waiting for us to show them something.”

The Nashua Youth (h)EARS program is also meant to be a primer before the sixth-graders attend the annual spring concert performed by the full Nashua Symphony Orchestra at Keefe Auditorium.

“Part of the problem with traditional one-off concerts for young people is that the students aren’t adequately prepared to have a truly meaningful listening experience,” said Eric Valliere, executive director of the orchestra, in a statement. “The goal of the (h)EARS program is to give them some new angles from which to approach the music, some background before they get to the concert, so that what they hear is already familiar and they have a personal relationship to it.”

The full concert is planned for April 14 and will feature the Fourth Symphony of Tchaikovsky and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.

“People frequently lament that there aren’t enough young people at our concerts,” Valliere said. “So, we’re continuing our efforts this year to bring the music to them. We’re really very excited about this program.”

The Learning Curve appears Thursdays in The Telegraph. Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Kittle (@Telegraph_CamK) on Twitter.