Conservatory Orchestra Pushes to Reach Outside Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Symphony Society's Columbia centric Conservatory Orchestra applied for a grant that could allow the program to reach out to neighboring communities in 2014.

The Conservatory is made up of choral, chamber, and junior strings, allowing children from third through twelfth grade to explore music with well-known music directors.

The proposal for the $14,500 grant was made to the Allen P. and Josephine B. Green Foundation, a mid-Missouri foundation interested in funding pursuits in education and the arts.

Missouri Symphony Society Director Chris Campbell said it is very important to introduce the program to students outside of Columbia.

"What we don't have is talented children who want additional learning and educational opportunities...from the surrounding communities," said Campbell.

The grant money would allow the program to provide scholarship opportunities for qualified students to come join the program as well as necessary resources to visit schools in the surrounding areas.

Conductor and Director of the Conservatory Kirk Trevor said he thinks it would be good for them to bring students to surrounding schools and show them what the program has to offer.

"Part of the problem is that people don't know about us, and so this grant will help us actually go and perform in some of these other communities and take some of our young kids to schools in Mexico and outlying regions," said Trevor.

Directors, Conservatory students, and parents of children in the program agree that music itself is the most important reason why they need to reach out.

"There are a lot of studies out there that indicate that music is part of a curriculum and education. In our public schools it increases test scores, it increases students' faculties in math and language, it allows for a broader sense of humanities," said Campbell.

Sophia, Carlie, and Olivia Cunningham are sisters who have been in the program for years and have grown up playing the violin. Their mother Cammie Cunninham's love for music and beliefs about music education influenced her to have three of her daughters join the program.

"Music offers the ability to focus and practicing and playing with other people...but it also provides the child with some stability in their life, that is something they can control, and what comes out is their own making," said Cunningham.

It wasn't long before the Cunningham daughters could see the impact as well.

"It's been something I can always go to if I ever need some cheering's a way to express myself," said Olivia Cunningham.

Campbell said that sometimes students are not able to get the most from music education in other areas because they don't have any other resources besides their middle school or high school bands.

Campbell says that there is a difference between school programs and the Conservatory. Trends to cut music education are decreasing but school music education programs cannot all provide what they once did.

"They have slowed down the budget cuts over the last several years quite a bit, but the biggest reason they slowed down is there's almost nothing left to cut," said Campbell.

Still, Campbell said that there are still exceptional school music programs and the Conservatory wants to work with school music educators to find students for the program. He says the program, and society, needs children who are passionate about music.

"When these kids grow up we need them to know who Leonard Bernstein is, was. We need them to know who Louie Armstrong was," said Campbell.

The Conservatory will find out if it receives the grant in the fall and Campbell is planning now which schools to contact first.