Educational programs have always been an important part of the Orchestra’s mission, beginning in the 1902–03 season with Education Concerts for Young People. In 1921 Music Director Leopold Stokowski initiated Children’s Concerts (for those up to 12 years old) and in 1933 Youth Concerts were begun (for those 13 to 25). These programs, along with many others, continue today (under different names) and exemplify the Orchestra’s dedication to introducing young listeners to classical music and to creating opportunities to engage with the community.
In March 2020 the Orchestra halted all live performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, after more than two and a half years, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s family offerings, including Family Concerts, School Concerts, and Sound All Around concerts, all of which are sensory-friendly, have returned to the stage.
Narrator Michael Boudewyns portrays each of the characters in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf on the Orchestra's Family Concert in October 2022. Photo by Chris Kendig
Family Concerts, a beloved tradition, bring storytelling to life through music and ignite children’s imaginations and love of music with delightful, kid-sized concerts, designed with a captivating blend of storytelling and classical music. Remaining Family Concerts this season are the Children’s Holiday Spectacular (Dec. 10); Peer Gynt, featuring the Enchantment Theatre Company (Feb. 11); and a collaboration with students from the Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center for Who Is Florence Price? (Mar. 25). Family Concerts are funded in part by the Zisman Family Foundation and for the first time are also available as part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus Family Discovery Series.
Associate Principal Flute Patrick Williams (Rachelle and Ronald Kaiserman Chair) and the Orchestra’s Imasogie Storyteller, Narrator, and Host Charlotte Blake Alston in a Sound All Around Concert at the Academy of Music Ballroom in October 2022. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Sound All Around, a series of concerts dedicated to educating young listeners from preschool to elementary age, is hosted by Charlotte Blake Alston, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Imasogie Storyteller, Narrator, and Host. Each event features a Philadelphia Orchestra musician from the string, woodwind, brass, or percussion family of instruments; all of the musicians gather for the final concert of the season. The remaining performances are cello (with Associate Principal Cello Priscilla Lee, Feb. 4, 6); trumpet (with trumpeter Anthony Prisk, Apr. 22, 24); and ensemble (May 13, 15). The Sound All Around concert series is endowed in perpetuity by the Garrison Family Fund for Children's Concerts, with additional support from the Acadia Fund.
Students from local elementary schools take part in an Orchestra School Concert in March 2018. Photo by Pete Checchia
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Jane H. Kesson School Concert Program is the ideal way to expose students in grades 3–5 to the exciting and powerful art form of orchestral music. School Concerts familiarize students with the environment and traditions of a concert hall, equip them with fundamental musical vocabulary, and cultivate a lifelong interest in classical music. This season, the Orchestra is presenting two ways to enjoy School Concerts: in-person in Verizon Hall in March and a free Virtual School Concert Experience, designed for students in grades 1–6, accessible from anywhere in the world.