Youth Concerts

Our Youth Concerts inspire 4,000 4th-6th graders each spring and serve schools from an 8-county radius. These free concerts at the Gallagher-Bluedorn feature the full orchestra in creative and interactive programs. Below is a concert guide with associated media for educators to use in integrating the concert experience into their classroom curriculum.

The 2018 Youth Concerts take place on March 29, 2018 at 9:30 am, 11 am and 1 pm. wcfsymphony Youth Concerts are made possible by generous grants from the Guernsey Charitable Foundation and Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa as well as funds and volunteer labor provided by members of Upbeat.


Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of America’s greatest classical musician – and many would also say most influential music educator – Leonard Bernstein. Our Youth Concerts pay homage to Bernstein and his pioneering Young People’s Concerts. Widely credited with setting the structure and format for many subsequent orchestra youth programs (including ours), Bernstein’s YPCs also utilized the modern medium of television to reach previously untapped audiences for classical music. Our learning guide and concerts in turn use contemporary technologies like YouTube and in-concert multimedia to guide students through many of the same lines of inquiry as well as a few new ones.

In his approachable, probing programs for youth Bernstein explored key questions related to sound and concerted music, and attempted to make those questions relevant to his modern audiences. Our Youth Concerts follow his lead with a selection of classic works featured on the YPCs and encourage students to explore many of the same fundamental questions of structure, content, and meaning that interested Bernstein.

Embedded below are segments of the original Young People’s Concerts which feature the issues and pieces we will present to students on our Youth Concerts. Additional segments from the same programs can be found on YouTube for educators to utilize as classroom time allows.

Concert repertoire

Handel – Water Music, Alla Hornpipe
Mozart – Marriage of Figaro, Overture
Beethoven – Symphony no 5
Concerto TBD
Rossini – William Tell, Overture
Copland – Rodeo
Tchaikovsky – Symphony no 4

What Is Classical Music?

One of the most fundamental questions Bernstein struck out to answer – and one with which audiences still grapple – is the question of what constitutes classical music. We’ll open our program with the same music that introduced Bernstein’s ‘What is Classical Music’, the Alla Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music, followed by another work from the same program, Mozart’s Overture to Marriage of Figaro. His introduction to the topic and performances of those two pieces are embedded below:



A subsequent Young People’s Concert entitled ‘Overtures and Preludes’ adds another dimension to the consideration of Mozart’s overture (plus another by Rossini featured later in our program) and helps students understand some of the historical uses and settings for classical music:



What Is A Concerto?

Each year the winner of our Young Artist Concerto Competition performs with the orchestra on the Youth Concerts. While the specific concerto to be performed is unavailable at this time due to the scheduling of the competition and other factors, the concerto as a musical form is worth reviewing with students. Bernstein devoted an entire YPC to the concerto form, the introduction of which is below:



Bernstein’s YPCs showcased young performers in concertos with the New York Philharmonic. The then-novel practice of kids performing for kids has since become commonplace at orchestra youth concerts around the world, inspiring young listeners and making classical music relatable to them through performances by their peers. Here are a few of those young artists in their YPC debuts:



The Sound Of An Orchestra

Orchestral music represents one of the most unique group activities in all of human history, full of intricate collaborations between musicians and fascinating experiments in sound by composers. One of the most important elements of both Bernstein’s YPCs and our annual Youth Concerts is experiencing the singular sound and complex mechanisms of a full symphony orchestra.

Historically, the orchestra is also a fascinating subject study in change and development, and like Bernstein’s YPCs our program will feature works spanning the 300 years during which the orchestra evolved from a small baroque ensemble to a large and diverse 20th-century symphony orchestra. Our Youth Concerts will feature two works Bernstein chose to illustrate the possibilities of orchestral sound, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (which also appears elsewhere in the YPCs) and Copland’s Rodeo:



Copland’s piece also opens up another topic that underlies much of our concert work and which was of paramount importance to Bernstein: American music. Here is his introduction to ‘What is American Music’:



What Does Music Mean

One of the thorniest questions about music is a seemingly simple one: What does it mean? Bernstein devoted an entire YPC as well as various essays and lectures to this age-old inquiry. We have selected two famous works from Bernstein’s YPC ‘What Does Music Mean’ through which he seeks to help listeners uncover music’s significance and points of reference – Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony:



Finally, Bernstein’s ‘What Makes Music Symphonic’ YPC features Tchaikovsky’s Fourth as well as additional excerpts from Beethoven’s symphonies, making it the perfect summary of many of the issues we explore on our Youth Concert homage to Bernstein and his concerts for young people:



Additional Resources

The concert experience for new audiences
What is an orchestra?
Bernstein YPC scripts
Bernstein YPC notes and manuscripts at Library of Congress
Bernstein Artful Learning background