Driving the success of our mission is our primary community engagement initiative, educational work with young people. Each year we bring live music to thousands of kids through an array of carefully crafted programs. As public schools and other cultural institutions come under increasing curricular and budgetary pressure arts education tends to take a backseat. All of our educational programs are aimed at opening artistic doors for students while contributing to strong foundations in general education.
Our flagship education effort, the annual wcfsymphony Youth Concerts, gives 4,000 4th-6th graders their very first breathtaking experience of live symphonic music. Our Ensembles in the Schools program – combined with 25 annual visits to area schools by our Artistic Director – enables educators to deepen their students’ in-school exploration of the fine arts. In Waterloo our Parnter-in-Education school is Becker Elementary.
In addition to school-based performances for the youngest audiences, our Lollipop Series offers free Saturday morning concerts that have delighted children and their families for over three decades. Both EIS and Lollipop programs are supported by grants and sponsorships from Tri-County Head Start, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, RJ McElroy Trust, The Max and Helen Guernsey Charitable Foundation, The Cedar Falls Community Foundation’s Kathryn Ray Fund for the Cedar Falls Public Library, and an anonymous individual donor.
In addition to our work with elementary-aged students we offer a number of opportunities for more advanced young musicians. The Young Artist Concerto Competition attracts top student musicians from around the state , with the winner performing annually on our Youth Concerts and the top three places receiving cash awards. The wcfsymphony Conducting Fellowship aims to fill critical holes in traditional conducting pedagogy by offering a close-up look at the life of an American orchestra and the real roles and responsibilities of the 21st-century music director. Finally, wcfsymphony provides master class opportunities with selected guest artists, and in recent seasons high school and college musicians have had the opportunity to work with such artists as David Shifrin, Nadja-Salerno Sonnenberg, Peter Schickele, Matt Haimovitz, Edgar Meyer, Timo Andres, and Zuill Bailey.