Utah Symphony Welcomes 18,000 Students to Abravanel Hall for Annual Fifth Grade Docent Concerts

2020 program “Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds” introduces students to the orchestra while also teaching about Hawaiian culture and conservation efforts necessary to protect bird species.    

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (February 21, 2020) – More than 18,000 fifth grade students and 800 teachers from Utah schools will attend free concerts in February as part of the Utah Symphony’s annual “Fifth Grade Docent Concert” program. The concerts, conducted by Associate Conductor Conner Gray Covington, feature the finale from Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” and a virtual getaway to the Islands of Hawaii with “Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds.”

Nine concerts are presented throughout the month on February 11, 12, 24, 25 and 26 where fifth students from Alpine, Canyons, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Morgan, Murray, Salt Lake City, South Summit and Tooele school districts and from private, charter and homeschools experience a performance from a live symphony orchestra, many for the first time. Prior to attending the concert, students are visited in their classrooms by approximately 50 volunteer docents who introduce the students to classical music through specially designed presentation materials.

“The orchestra and I are particularly excited about this year’s Fifth Grade Concerts,” says Mr. Covington. “The ‘Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds’ is an incredibly interactive program with wonderful information about the beautiful, unique birds that call Hawaii home. These concerts are a great way to introduce the kids to the orchestra and classical music while also educating them, with the help of representatives from Tracy Aviary, about the importance of Utah’s birds to our natural environment and actions the students can take to help protect Utah’s bird populations.”

The Utah Symphony has partnered with local librarian and Hawaii native, Jeneanne Lock, to serve as its emcee, and Kumu Tony Paialii and Kumu Elenoa Pua of Salt Lake City’s Pacific Heritage Academy to produce a beautiful video of hula for these concerts. Educators Kylie Jones-Greenwood and Megan McKay from Tracy Aviary also teach students about birds native to Utah and ways students can help protect avian populations.

The “Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds” project originally came out of a partnership between the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. It features six original compositions, which are accompanied by short animated films and paintings by Hawaiian artists. Each composition features different birds and encourages students to consider the necessity of conservation efforts protecting each species.

Buses are as familiar to Utah Symphony musicians as the stage, and approximately one-third of the Utah Symphony’s performances each season are education concerts for students, many of them presented in school gymnasiums or auditoriums throughout the state of Utah. During the 2018-19 school year, the Utah Symphony’s education programs served 67,815 students and 2,660 teachers in 141 Utah school districts. In addition to school districts along the Wasatch Front, the Utah Symphony visited Box Elder, Carbon, Daggett, Duschene, Grand, Iron, Logan, North Sanpete, North Summit, Park City, San Juan, South Summit, Uinta, Wasatch, and Washington school districts with the goal of reaching students in every school district throughout the state of Utah on a three-to-five-year rotating basis.

School concerts are underwritten through the Professional Outreach Program in the Schools (POPS) by the Utah State Legislature with funding matched 3:1 by community partners, including the Elizabeth Brown Dee Fund for Music in the Schools and additional major support from the Kahlert Foundation and Naoma Tate and the Family of Hal Tate. The goal of POPS is to connect schools, teachers, administrators and students with high-quality arts learning experiences with professional artists.

About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education Department

The Education Department of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera creates and oversees opportunities in music for audiences of all ages, with special emphasis on musical experiences for K-12 students and teachers. As the largest non-profit performing arts organization in Utah, USUO promotes a broad public knowledge and appreciation of music through more than 30 state-assisted community outreach programs, amounting to more than 600 performances annually. USUO Education serves more than 7,000 teachers and 155,000 students each year throughout Utah by bringing both symphony and opera programs, free of charge, to every school district in Utah over a three- to five-year rotation. Visit us here for more information.