I had a rare recent treat: I attended the 501 Years of Florida History Schools Music Education Program at the Tennessee Williams Theatre and was wowed by it.
It has long been the dream of South Florida Symphony conductor Sebrina Alfonso to bring music education to Key West's schools. In collaboration with the Monroe County School District, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, the Do It For ME (music education) program founded by Marilynn Weber and the Artz Out Loud program, Sebrina's dream is being realized. The program she brought, with music commissioned from composer Robert Kerr, opened my ears as well as those of the children.
The principal chair of each section introduced the members of the section and explained the relations among its instruments. I learned about instruments I thought I knew. After this introduction, I could recognize them as never before.
Just as impressive as its musical quality was the program's concept, the story of Florida told through music, words and images. While the children provided the wind for ships sailing across the ocean, images of sailing ships appeared in a slide show that segmented them so each image recomposed into the image that followed.
Part of the program was based on geography as well as history, so the children learned the stops on Flagler's East Coast Railway by seeing their names flashed in order, then calling out the names as they reappeared on the screen. Facts about William Bartram's drawings of Florida plants added both art and biology to the mix.
The South Florida Symphony Orchestra now is part of a true collaboration. Sebrina's vision is to expand this program and take it on tour throughout South Florida.
The program deserves to be taken on the road. There were no absences on the day when the students go to the symphony, and no wonder. Those of us who love the South Florida Symphony can only be thrilled to know that children are being exposed to symphonic music by this wonderful orchestra.
Sebrina's commitment to bringing serious music to children in the midst of her real work -- putting on master concerts for the four communities the symphony serves -- is amazing. Sebrina is modeling for the children, the musicians and the community what it means to build audiences by taking listeners seriously.