More than 500 high school and middle school students from Ellicottville, Fillmore, and Wellsville waited with bated breath as Dr. Armenio Suzano, dean and director of the Greatbatch School of Music at Houghton College, raised his hands. After a moment of anticipatory silence, the music from the wildly successful video game World of Warcraft echoed off the walls of Houghton College’s Wesley Chapel.
For some students, this was the first time they had ever witnessed a collegiate orchestra. For others, it was an introduction to the changing face of ‘classical’ music, which now includes scores from the world’s most popular films and video games.
November 1, 2018 marked the second anniversary of the launch of Houghton’s Klassics 4 Kids program, a youth-focused educational outreach designed to expose local students to a broader spectrum of music. These budding young musicians experienced life as a music student at Houghton as they participated in learning and listening exercises with Suzano and the orchestra, heard from Houghton A Cappella, and listened to Professor Amanda Cox, instructor of voice and director of Houghton College Lyric Theatre, perform “Glitter and be Gay” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.
A distinctive of Klassics is the program’s fusion of instruction and live, interactive performance. During the program, Suzano and Dillon Hirsch, second-year conducting graduate student at the Greatbatch School of Music, provided brief overviews of each piece, the composer, and important elements of the composition. Selections from the mix of classical and modern ensemble pieces included Bernstein’s “Candide Overture,” “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s famous The Planets suite, Emmanuel Chabrier’s exciting España Rhapsodie, Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi and, of course, World of Warcraft.
In addition, students took to the stage themselves to be a part of the experience. “They’ll never forget this,” remarks Kathleen Weller, a music teacher at Ellicottville Central School. “I am hoping we get to do it again and again.”
“This was one of the most promising outreach events we have done in recent years,” remarked Suzano. “Exposing students to the benefits of classical music – while demonstrating how today’s modern film and video game music uses it – opens doors to their creativity. We hope that they might one day join the ranks of our music students here at Houghton.”
For more information about future Klassics 4 Kids events and get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.