Friends of WSO receives grant to fund children's concert

Friends of WSO receives grant to fund children's concert
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The Friends of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra, shown here being conducted by Jeff Lindberg, recently received a $5,000 grant through the Ohio Arts Council to fund the symphony’s annual children’s concert. After a three-year hiatus, the children’s concert will return to McGaw Chapel on Feb. 22 for Wayne and Holmes fourth-graders.

                        

For decades Wayne and Holmes fourth-graders have had the opportunity to attend an annual community concert put on by the Wooster Symphony Orchestra.

Now the show can go on, in part thanks to a new grant obtained by the Friends of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra. The nonprofit received a $5,000 grant by the Ohio Arts Council at the end of 2023, allocating the money to the orchestra’s 2024 Children’s Concert.

The grant, called ArtsRISE, is helping to kick-start the kids annual concert experience, which is back after a three-year hiatus due to COVID. This year’s children’s concert is slated for Feb. 22 at McGaw Chapel on The College of Wooster campus. The orchestra is a mix of college students, professors and community professionals who share their time and talent with the area students. The educational experience is funded and organized by the Friends of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with Tri-County Educational Service Center.

“Kids from school get to attend for free,” said Michelle Muro, fine arts consultant for Tri-County ESC. “The Friends pay for all the students’ booklets. The grant money also helps pay for soloists, special music and any expenses that the orchestra would have in a concert.”

The Friends are excited to help bring back the experience, which dates as far back as the 1930s, according to newspaper reports. Since the 1970s the nonprofit group, formerly called the Women’s Committee, has funded the fourth-graders’ concert and is grateful to partner with Ohio Arts Council for this new grant.

ArtsRISE is designed to support the arts by investing in communities that have historically underrepresented populations and groups. One of its focused demographics is Appalachian and rural communities, a category the Friends could claim for the general Wayne and Holmes county area.

“(The Ohio Arts Council is) wanting to not only preserve culture, but they’re also trying to support struggling artists and arts programs,” said Judy Kastelen, a Friends member.

Kastelen, along with the help of Muro and other Friends members, began writing the grant request in August and gained acceptance late fall. The application included the history of the Friends organization and Wooster Symphony Orchestra, demographic information, the cultural arts program in which the money would be used, and the community impact.

Grant money will go toward the concert’s general expenses including soloists, special performances and program booklets. An average of 1,400 students from area schools have attended in recent years, with the last concert performed in early 2020.

Each student attending on Feb. 22 will receive a study booklet that lays out the day’s program by introducing symphony instruments, concert etiquette and information about the specific pieces that will be played. The cultural experience opens a door to get students interested in joining band, becoming an orchestra member and other musical opportunities in the future, Muro said.

“We target fourth grade specifically because many of our schools begin their instrumental program in fifth grade,” Muro said. “So it provides an introduction to all the instrument families and instruments so fourth-graders can start thinking about an instrument they might want to play.”

“We’re trying to build an audience for the future,” Kastelen said. “If we want to preserve culture, we have to have the children at least know this is something they could choose.”

The Friends group is planning to apply for the years to come and is thankful for the Ohio Arts Council making the application a smooth process.


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