A new initiative between Westerville City Schools’ orchestra program and the Westerville Symphony brings live concerts to younger audiences while giving students the opportunity to learn from and connect with professional musicians.
“We hope they will come to the concerts, bring their friends and enjoy the experience,” said Hild Peersen, executive director of the Westerville Symphony. “We want to show them that this is another way to engage in music. They already have an interest in it because they perform it. Now they can share it with others.”
Through the Student Ambassadors of the Westerville Symphony (SAWS), orchestra students across the district’s three high schools can attend and earn volunteer hours for their work during concerts. They will meet throughout the year to connect with members of the Westerville Symphony and other professional musicians, getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of being in an orchestra or performing as a chamber musician. They are invited to share their experiences on social media to spread the word about the symphony’s performances.
Peersen approached Westerville North High School orchestra teacher Liz Brosius about the SAWS initiative after learning about a similar program with the Lansing Symphony. Brosius, who serves on the symphony’s board of trustees, worked with Westerville South orchestra director Mark Stevens and Westerville Central orchestra director John Vermeulen to expand the effort across the district’s high schools.
In addition to volunteering at symphony performances this year, students will be able to connect with upcoming performers on the Westerville Symphony’s schedule, including Westerville South alumnus and violinist Siwoo Kim who is a concert soloist based in New York.
Nearly 20 orchestra students volunteered for the SAWS kick-off event — the Sounds of Summer concert at the Alum Creek Amphitheater on Sunday, Aug. 22. Brosius, Stevens and Vermulen served as guest conductors, leading the Westerville Symphony in works composed by Leroy Anderson. The students distributed programs and collected donations from more than 100 audience members in attendance.
Westerville North junior Faith Clapsaddle, who plays cello for the school’s Sinfonia Orchestra, is excited to be part of the student ambassador program.
“It’s a good opportunity to all come together and engage in something we all love which is music and to be able to help out and meet new people along the way as well,” she said. “It’s going to be a fun time.”
She had only seen the Westerville Symphony live in concert once before. As she prepared for her volunteer duties before the start of the Sounds of Summer concert, she marveled over what she heard as they were practicing.
“So far, what I’ve heard is amazing,” she said. “I love the show already and this is just the soundcheck.”