The Adopt-A-Player Program
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Adopt-A-Player program, now in its eleventh year, serves both as a vehicle for pro-active community involvement and as a forum for the professional development of the orchestra’s musicians. The Toronto version of Adopt-A-Player is modeled after similar programs in England.
Selected musicians from the orchestra are “adopted” by individual schools in Toronto. Each musician collaborates with a grade 4 or 5 class one day a week, for five weeks. Under the guidance of their adopted musician, the students learn about the elements of music and eventually create a new piece of music. Each class performs its new composition for fellow students, parents, and the community at a “Showcase.” The schools’ participation in the Adopt-A-Player program is arranged through the Music Departments of the Toronto, Toronto Catholic, and York Region District School Boards.
The orchestra’s clarinetist/composer Raymond Luedeke is the program’s artistic mentor. In a 48-page 2005-6 Handbook written by Mr. Luedeke, the program goals for students are presented:
- To foster creative thinking.
- To learn to organize and evaluate creative ideas.
- To learn to function creatively within a group context.
- To learn the enjoyment of our musical heritage through a personal connection with a cultural institution – the TSO.
- To learn the basic elements of music (orchestration and instrumental color, harmony, melodic line, rhythmic patterns and form) through the creative process.
The 2005-2006 schedule involves eighteen groups of 4th and 5th -grade students with their classroom teachers. Each student group is from one of the metropolitan Toronto schools. The Adopt-A-Player program provides the opportunity for each of the student groups and their teachers to work closely with one of the participating TSO musicians. The participating students and teachers are presumed to have little or no prior musical training. According to the 2005-06 Handbook, the program consists of the following events:
- Two teacher/musician orientation workshops facilitated by Mr. Luedeke. This year, he was also assisted by Bill Cahn, a member of the Toronto-based NEXUS percussion group and the author of Creative Music Making, a pedagogy for the study of freeform improvisation as a means of enhancing musicianship.
- A TSO rehearsal at Roy Thompson Hall in which each group of students meets with its adopted TSO musician.
- Five visits by each adopted TSO musician to a host group of students in their own school over a period of five separate weeks. The goal is for each of the fifteen participating TSO musicians to facilitate their host group of students in creating a musical/theatrical work.Musicians, students, teachers, and docents start with a blank score. Each individual has a contribution to make. Through teamwork, cooperation, discussion, sharing, trial and error, a creative piece emerges. Everyone’s ideas are valued and considered. Over this period, individuals become part of a team. The vision becomes a shared one and everyone has a role to play that is vital to the outcome. The students are the creators and performers while the musician is the catalyst and interpreter, and the teacher the overseer and the continuity factor. The TSO volunteer docent facilitates the teacher and musician. The blank score eventually develops into a performance piece.
- A Sharing Day is held at the completion of the sessions. Each class shares their piece with other participating schools. Parents, siblings, friends, and staff are invited to share in the musical achievements of their class at one of the Sharing Concerts hosted by a participating school.
- The students and their teachers are provided with free tickets to a TSO performance at Roy Thompson Hall to hear a piece designated in advance as a model for the students. Parents are offered discounted tickets.
- Administration of the Adopt-A-Player program is provided by the TSO education director, Roberta Smith.
The TSO musicians are paid for each of the services in which they participate. Financial support is provided by the 3M Canada Company, the Toronto Musician’s Association, the Trillium Foundation, and the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee. In their five school visits, the participating TSO musicians provide musical inspiration, modeling the creative process.
The teachers organize their students in the classroom to best facilitate the creative process. They collaborate with musicians on musical issues, but are responsible for classroom behavior.
The TSO volunteers collaborate with the musicians and teachers to encourage and support the students by actively participating in the creative process in the classroom.
Two Orientation Workshops Featuring Bill Cahn Provided a Focus On Improvisation
The two teacher/musician Adopt-A-Player orientation workshops were held on November 9 and 23, 2005. Fifteen musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra came together for the first orientation session on Wednesday November 9th at The Studio in Roy Thompson Hall. Also in attendance were three TSO education staff members and six members of Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee.
The special guest was Bill Cahn of NEXUS. Bill briefly described his book Creative Music Making, which presents a four-step pedagogy for freeform improvisation.
One of the TSO violists played an improvisation one-on-one with Bill. The playing was recorded and played back for discussion and analysis by all participants. The same process was followed in improvisations on a homemade amadinda (modeled after a Ugandan xylophone), first by Bill with one of the TSO volunteers, and then by a trio of participants. The improvisations were recorded and played back for listening and discussion.
Finally, four TSO musicians performed a recorded improvisation for playback and discussion. This was the first time some of the TSO musicians had ever created a freeform piece, and the process was very engaging for them, both as players and as listeners.
The workshop on November 23, 2005 at The Studio in Roy Thompson Hall was attended by 50 classroom teachers from Metro Toronto, 15 TSO musicians, 2 TSO education staff and 6 members of TSO Volunteer Committee
At this session, an outline of the adopt-a Player philosophy was presented to the teachers. Bill Cahn then described the Creative Music Making process, after which a teacher was invited to record a brief improvisation with him on the homemade amadinda. A brief discussion of the playback followed. Then three more teachers were invited to improvise as a trio on the amadinda.
The teachers and their adopted musicians broke into smaller groups, and each small group prepared its own improvisation. Due to time constraints, three groups were arbitrarily selected to perform their pieces for everyone. The pieces were also recorded and briefly discussed.
A salad and sandwich buffet dinner was provided by the TSO for all participants, and the teachers then attended a regular evening concert by the orchestra.
More information about the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Adopt-A-Player program can be found at the orchestra’s website (www.tso.ca).