'Informance' showcases youths' strings skills

Prairie Elementary students began learning orchestra instruments this year.

Orchestra teacher Melanie Loy introduces the fourth grade Prairie Elementary orchestra class at an outdoor "Informance" Tuesday evening, May 11, 2021. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Prairie Elementary fourth-graders wore proud smiles Tuesday night as they regaled friends, family members and teachers with orchestra music they've learned this year.

The outdoor concert was not so much a performance, explained orchestra teacher Melanie Loy, as an "informance." She decided to call the event that because it's about more than just showing off.

"I want to inform you about what we've been working on," she told the audience Tuesday.

District 518 students get their first opportunity to play instruments in school in fourth grade. Those who opt in to orchestra leave class at a designated time of day for lessons on either the violin, viola or cello.


COVID-19 severely impaired the students' ability to meet together, Loy explained, noting that before Tuesday night, the whole 68-member orchestra had not yet played as one consolidated group.

The fourth-graders started with the basics, going through a scale in both pizzicato (plucking with the forefinger) and arco (using the bow) while Loy explained to the audience the difference between the techniques. They progressively moved through more complex selections, while Loy gave background on each piece.

Joining the young musicians were Worthington Middle School orchestra teachers — whom the students will learn from next year if they choose to continue with orchestra — and Beth Habicht, a founding member of Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra.

The students felt the support of not only their parents and siblings, but their teachers. Musicians were asked to stand, class by class, so their teachers could congratulate them on their accomplishments. Prairie Elementary Principal Heidi Meyer also attended Tuesday's "informance" to support the students' efforts.

While only half an hour long, the production drew quite a crowd. Many parents filmed the event in its entirety, and students grinned from ear to ear.

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