RPO Education in the time of COVID

written by Barbara Brown, Director of Education

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been dedicated to music education since its founding nearly a century ago. In a typical year, 15,000 students in our 9-county region travel to hear the RPO perform live. Our field trip concerts are the cornerstone of our educational programs, often the first live orchestral experience these students have.

Last March, the RPO prepared to welcome thousands of students to Kodak Hall for our Intermediate concerts. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to cancel in-person events, we knew we had to pivot quickly. In just three days, our education and production teams pulled together a stellar program. On March 13, 2020, we presented our first-ever live-streamed concert. Guest conductor and RPO trumpeter Herb Smith conducted the morning’s concert, Get Out the Vote, with more than 250 classrooms viewing the live-stream in Rochester and beyond. 

Once it became clear that we would not present our Tiny Tots concerts in May, we pivoted again. We created a Tiny Tots at Home Experience for youngsters to enjoy from the comfort of their couch. We also made several fun activities for children to try while staying safe at home.

As the new school year approached and we realized we’d be operating in a virtual environment for the foreseeable future, we had to get creative again. We worked closely with local arts administrators and educators to make sure we were doing what we could to best support their efforts during this challenging time.

A behind-the-scenes look as 3rd Trumpet Herb Smith records his segment for our upcoming Instrument Video!

This season, we will offer two new Primary and Intermediate streamed concerts and new projects in collaboration with local educators. These projects include virtual masterclasses and sectionals with RPO musicians. We are also having online engagements with ROCmusic collaborative and music students in various public schools. We’re also excited to create a series of “instrument recruitment” videos that teachers can use to help elementary students decide which instrument they’d like to play next year. 

With support from the Guido & Ellen Palma Foundation, Max A. Adler Charitable Foundation, Fred & Floy Willmott Foundation, Paychex Charitable Foundation, Mary S. Mulligan Charitable Trust, and so many more, we can offer all of these virtual experiences at no cost to teachers and students in the greater Rochester area. 

This year has not been easy, but the forced flexibility has allowed us to reach out and connect with students in our community in new and unique ways. While we can’t wait to be together again in Kodak Hall, we hope that our efforts keep music alive for young people in the Rochester area. 

1 thought on “RPO Education in the time of COVID

  1. While we miss being with you in person, we so much appreciate your perseverance to provide children with quality music education and experiences!


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