On March 8 the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. was transformed into an electrifying concert hall when Sinfonia Gulf Coast presented its 9th live Link Up concert performance “The Orchestra Moves,” a national program it presented in partnership with New York’s Carnegie Hall Weill Institute of Music.
This year’s Link Up program — conducted by Sinfonia Gulf Coast Music & Artistic Director Demetrius Fuller — showcased the talents of more than 2,000 local 3rd-5th grade students from Okaloosa and Walton Counties performing on recorder and singing.
With recorders in hand, the students performed from their seats when given their cue by Maestro Fuller to join the Sinfonia Gulf Coast orchestra for a range of pieces from Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez, The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss and Toreador from Georges Bizet’s Carmen and others. But these inspired kids didn’t stay in their seats, at this spirited performance they were up out of their chairs singing, dancing choreographed moves they have been practicing for months.
This curriculum is geared towards 3rd-5th grade students, and in many cases locally, is the only music education that they receive during the school year. The theme of this year’s Link Up program was centered around movement. Students learn how we can perceive music as moving through space from high to low, filling the spaces in between with harmonies, timbres and textures. They learn that when music moves us, it evokes a full range of emotional responses, and compels us to move our bodies and create dance.
The program definitely “moved” kids. While waiting to enter the theater third grader Damen Wilson said, “I really liked learning the recorder and am excited I get to keep it so I can practice at home for my mom.” Fourth grader Anniston Carver said she was “excited to dance to the music” and hoped to hear a piano.
Sinfonia’s Link Up program is funded in part by the St. Joe Community Foundation, the Dugas Family Foundation and the Emeril Lagasse Family Foundation. Additional funding from Sinfonia Gulf Coast’s Crescendo! annual fundraiser, Treble Makers, an honorary membership committee of Crescendo!, and community donors, has helped Link Up steadily grow to the Sinfonia’s largest education initiative.
“We are so honored to sponsor this incredible Sinfonia Link Up initiative for the students in our community,” said April Wilkes, executive director of the St. Joe Community Foundation. “For 10 years, the Foundation has made an investment in this program and it has been great to see the growth and impact that it has on all of these students.”