More than 3,000 Killeen Independent School District fifth-graders cycled through the Killeen High School auditorium Friday to hear a full orchestra.
For many, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s annual concert for fifth-graders is a first exposure to the grandeur of strings, brass, woodwind and percussion on a big stage.
Resident conductor Andres Franco treated the auditorium stage as his classroom, identifying for students the various instrument families, with different sections wearing different colored shirts.
Students responded to his questions about Texas history and the orchestra played selections connected to each of the flags that have flown over the Lone Star State.
“As soon as you hear this next song, you will know the country,” Franco told the students.
Sure enough, the song associated with the Texas Confederate flag began, and when the conductor turned to face the crowd, they did as they were told — clap-clap-clap-clap — to the familiar sound of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
In another selection connected to the Civil War era, the symphony played “Johnny Come Marching Home,” a tune both sides of the bitter war sang, Franco told students.
The orchestra also played songs of Mexico, Spain, France and the United States.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has brought its education program to Killeen ISD for more than 20 years, an effort Killeen ISD fine arts director Sheila Donahue hopes “lights a fire.”
The annual effort, which requires three contingents of buses to gather students for three separate concerts, to support the arts.
Music teacher Cheryl Young, with her Trimmier Elementary School students, said she’s seen the symphony exposure enrich students’ learning.
“I ask them how many have seen an orchestra and very few have,” she said. “Culturally, this is a great opportunity. When we came in, they noticed and named the different instruments.”
Reeces Creek Elementary School music teacher Amanda White asked her students the same question and said almost none had experienced an orchestra concert before.
“I have students who have the potential to be great musicians,” White said. “This will light that flame. There are some here who this will secure for them that they want to be in band.”
Lindsey Branch, director of education and community programs for the Fort Worth orchestra, said the group performs 58 concerts for schools a year, about one-third of its yearly schedule.
“We can’t rely on them to come to the Bass Concert Hall (in Fort Worth). That’s why we tour,” she said. “They see this music is fun. It’s not just for concert halls.”
The orchestra provided curriculum guides in advance so teachers could prepare the children to be active listeners and to recognize the instrument families.