WMS students to gain from Minnesota Sinfonia residency

Two chances for public involvement: 7 p.m. Monday, 7 p.m. Friday

Jay Fishman. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Worthington Middle School students will gain from a special music residency next week when the Minnesota Sinfonia of Minneapolis brings its “Music in the Schools” program to town.

In all, 125 fifth-graders and 15 seventh- and eighth-grade string chamber players will work directly with Minnesota Sinfonia’s artistic director and conductor Jay Fishman, plus the orchestra’s 26 instrumentalists, as they explore the topic of “Animals: Our Most Fascinating Neighbors.”

“It focuses on science and related literature, how people interact with animals and how musicians have used animals as inspiration for some of the music they create and perform,” said Jeanette Jenson, a WMS general music instructor.

What’s more, the general public is invited to see what this professional group and its “Music in the Schools” initiative are all about. At 7 p.m. Monday, everyone is invited to attend a Minnesota Sinfonia reception and presentation entitled “The Magical Mysteries of Music.” And, at 7 p.m. Friday, the public is welcomed to a free concert featuring not only the Minnesota Sinfonia but also the choral and string students who have worked with them during the week.

“Jay Fishman received a $33,695 grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board that is enabling him and his professional ensemble to bring music and education not only to Worthington but to other schools within the state,” said Jenson.


“And we received local sponsoring aid from the Worthington Optimists, WAMBO, the Early Risers Kiwanis Club and District 518 — plus the Friends of the Auditorium are providing space for the public events — in order to make this possible,” Jenson continued.

“We’d also like to thank the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra and the Great Plains String Quartet for their unwavering support.”

Fishman and his innovative Minnesota Sinfonia were in Worthington for a residency two years ago. At that time, District 518 music and orchestra teacher Melanie Loy coordinated the visit, which touched local fourth-grade orchestra students and the Worthington High School orchestra.

“Jay liked it here so well and was so impressed with the district’s diversity and the way everyone was working together to educate and enrich students’ lives that he wanted to return,” said Jenson.

The Minnesota Sinfonia, founded in 1989, has at its core a mission “to serve the musical and educational needs of the citizens of Minnesota with a special emphasis on reaching families with young children, inner-city youth, seniors and those with limited financial means.”

A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Minnesota Sinfonia and founder Fishman are firm believers in the ability of music to aid students in achieving broader academic success.

“They use classical music as a bridge to engage learning in math, history, science, social studies and literature,” said Jenson.

For instance, Monday night’s presentation will reveal how Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, among other familiar classical works, can explain a variety of mathematical concepts.


“It’s all content-related,” said Jenson, “and we can see how music exposure benefits students in all aspects of their educational experiences.”

Along with Jenson, WMS music teacher Morgan Rukstales will join in leading the 125 fifth-grade singers as the Minnesota Sinfonia professionals teach them “The Butterfly” and another animal-based tune. Zac Paulsen directs the seventh- and eighth-grade chamber group slated to work with Fishman and company.

“Our fifth-graders are active, good readers, and I’d like to thank the fourth-grade teachers at Prairie Elementary for recommending them,” said Jenson, explaining the Minnesota Sinfonia dates were set for this year prior to the current fifth-graders arriving at WMS.

But it isn’t only the student musicians directly involved who stand to benefit; in two Thursday assemblies, all 1,044 WMS students will hear Minnesota Sinfonia and their student peers perform, and the professionals will additionally visit 26 WMS classrooms in 15-minute slots addressing music, its multiple educational connections and more.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students,” said Jenson, “and we’re eager to welcome Minnesota Sinfonia to Worthington once again.”

Two events next week are free and open to the public: Minnesota Sinfonia offers “Teaching Core Academics with Music/The Magical Mysteries of Music” at 7 p.m. Monday in the lobby of Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13 th St., Worthington. At 7 p.m. Friday, Minnesota Sinfonia performs with the WMS seventh/eighth grade chamber orchestra and the WMS fifth-grade choristers, also at Memorial Auditorium.

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