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Pensacola Symphony Presents 2015 'Music For Families'

Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra is holding its annual ‘Music for Families’ concert this Saturday, May 23 at the Saenger Theatre. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. and the concert starts at 11:00.

The purpose of “Music for Families” is to provide a fun and entertaining introduction to classical music for children ages 3-12.

The PSO launched the program about a decade ago, holding the first event at N.B. Cook Elementary School for the Arts.

“Well this is an initiative that we started about 10 years ago, with a goal of broadening our footprint in the community for serving all the populations of Pensacola,” said Music Director Peter Rubardt. “Also, frankly, to plant the seeds that we hope will grow into the future musicians that will be on the stage of the Pensacola Symphony or the future audience members, or the future board members, the future people who feel how valuable music can be in their lives.”

While the format of the ‘Music for Families’ event is much the same, it has evolved over the years.

“Well at the start of the event, we really did it as an outgrowth of our chamber orchestra program, and the concert for children was based on the concert the night before that was performed for adults,” said Bret Barrow, PSO executive director. This year, however, the music program has moved in a new direction. “We went from a dress rehearsal situation, where we were running, again, a concert for adults that same night and trying to shorten it and make it into a children’s performance. Whereas, now we want to do a program that is entirely for children.”

‘Music for Families’ is just one part of a larger strategy that the symphony has for engaging the community. Already, the PSO is involved in pilot programs in some local schools, as well as community-based music organizations such as the Belmont Youth Band and Santa Rosa Strings, and the organization is working towards launch of a number of new initiatives in the near future.

Credit Pensacola Symphony Orchestra
Pensacola Symphony Orchestra
Children experiencing the instrument Petting Zoo at the 2014 'Music for Families' event.
Listen to Sandra Averhart's entire interview with Peter Rubardt and Bret Barrow.

This weekend’s event will begin with a variety of hands-on activities that will take place in the lobby of the Saenger. 

“We’re really excited to bring back the instrument Petting Zoo,” Barrow said, noting that it has expanded this year to include one musician per instrument instead of just a family of instruments having one person. This way the children who attend can try out just about any instrument they’d like. “They’re (the musicians) are so good with the kids and it’s always a wonderful thing to see how a kid’s face lights up the first time they play a note on the cello or hear the sounds they can make out of the tuba.”

The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections will be on hand conducting a poll to determine which instrument is most popular. Additionally, there will be an interactive art station and drum circle. Other community partners include the MESS Hall, UWF Historic Trust, IHMC, and local artist Randy New.

For this weekend’s ‘Music for Families’ concert, great care has been taken to put together a program that will be appealing for children of all ages.

According to Maestro Peter Rubardt, one of the most important factors in peoples’ appreciation for the symphony is their familiarity with the instruments on stage.

“What families are they in? How are they played? What’s the difference between a crash cymbal and a trombone?”

Credit Pensacola Symphony Orchestra
Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

Rubardt has teamed with Kayla Garrett from the West Florida Public Library to create a program that is designed to introduce the audience to the various families of instruments, including brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds, in a fun way..

“We’ll have the theme of a train,” Rubardt said. “Did you ever meet a kid that didn’t like a train?”

Using that ‘magic’ train theme, the maestro and Garrett have planned a musical journey discovering all the instrument families of the orchestra.

The orchestra will perform favorite musical works such as the theme from Star Wars, William Tell Overture, selections from Disney’s Frozen, and many more!

Attendance at the family event has grown over the years, from about 100-200 people.  In 2014, that number was 900, and the PSO hopes to top 1,000 this year.

Tickets are available at pensacolasymphony.com or call the PSO office at 850-435-2533.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.