On a cold day last January, special education teacher Mary Crummie made the trip from Monroeville to downtown Pittsburgh so the students in her class could experience the PSO in its home of Heinz Hall. Mary’s class attended the PNC Tiny Tots concert “Harold and the Purple Crayon: The Giant Garden.” Before the concert even began, one of her students began to cry and said, “I’m so happy here. I just love coming here.” Another student enjoyed the PSO’s rendition of Offenbach’s “Can-Can” so much that he still sings it from time to time.
Mary has brought kids to see the PSO for about 20 years, and she always makes sure they are completely ready for the concerts. To accomplish this, she “often needs to revisit things and give students ongoing exposure to music and the concert material.”[i]
Preparations start in earnest about a week before the concert, when Mary and her students read Meet the Orchestra, which they especially like because of the illustrations of animals playing instruments. They also read The Story of the Orchestra to see where musicians sit on the stage. Mary sends books home with students so that parents can read them as well. After reading the books and learning about various instruments, students cut and paste musical pictures to create their own orchestra seating charts. In addition, Sunrise School’s music teacher introduces the songs on the concert playlists to students so that they are familiar with the music before they even arrive at Heinz Hall.
On the day of the concert, Mary tries to arrive with enough time to let the students look at the different sections of the orchestra as they warm up. An early arrival also gives students enough time to settle into the new environment and relax so they can concentrate during the concert. Mary says, “For some of the kids, going to Tiny Tots is the only time they’ll be in Heinz Hall. They’re so excited about everything they see.”[ii] Her students especially love book concerts, like The Tortoise and the Hare and Madeline, that combine music and familiar stories. Mary comments, “It helps when they have read the books before and have concrete images that accompany the music.”[iii]
I met up with Mary and her class when they attended the concert A Blue So Blue, the story of a boy on a quest to find the perfect shade of blue, on March 19. Afterward, I interviewed three of Mary’s students, Daniel, Logan, and Ha’sawn, to hear what they thought about the concert. Watch the video below to see some of their interview highlights! (Click Transcript of Interviews with Sunrise School Students to read their comments.)
Mary told me that all her students were extremely happy to come see the PSO, especially since they didn’t get to hear the orchestra perform Peter and the Wolf as expected in January. Before the PSO postponed the concert due to frigid temperatures and multiple school closings, she and her students watched three or four versions of Peter and the Wolf on videotape. I informed Mary that we had rescheduled the concert for June 3, and when she passed the news on to her class, they started clapping, yelling in excitement, and jumping up and down. Smiles broke out on all their faces.
We’re very excited to see them back on June 3, and we hope we’ll see you there too! Visit the PNC Tiny Tots page to register and experience this classic musical story!
[i] Crummie, Mary. Personal interview. 7 Mar. 2014.