This blog post will focus on the intention and the outcomes associated with Community Concert Series. The concert series was an idea hatched in my office to expand our curriculum experience, enhance inter-generational learning, and bring the community together around music. The music department helped to implement the idea, but was not responsible for creating the program.
The idea started with our accepting international students at Burlington High School. Seven years ago the district entered into a relationship with a group called Educatius. Educatius places international students with local families and in public school districts. The international students get the benefit of experiencing an American High School. The district and community get the benefit of added friendships, diversity, and tuition.
Burlington High School has accepted 2 to 4 students per year over the last 5 or 6 years. Mr. Sullivan has been careful to select students whom he believes will add to the student experience at BHS. Many of our neighboring districts accept international students as well. We charged these students $14,500 per year in tuition in 2017.
In addition to some capital projects and supporting school lunches, I thought that these non-operating budget resources would be a great resource to expand our high school curriculum to the entire community and help bring the community together through an inter-generational learning experience. Moreover, the community has generously supported upgrades to the BHS Auditorium making it an exceptional place to see a performance. Allowing the entire community to benefit from these facility upgrades was also a factor. To this end, the Community Concert Series was created.
We started slowly with two shows in the first year (2015). We attempted to establish a schedule of 4 shows per year the last two years (2016, 2017). The best example of the curricular connection is demonstrated by the Ella Fitzgerald protege’ performance last February. February is Black history month and 2017 would have been Ella’s 100th birthday. The music department was awarded a Burlington Education Foundation (BEF) grant to bring in an Ella Fitzgerald historian to present at all six schools. This presentation was even delivered prior to the concert. This pre-concert presentation was open to the entire community at no cost. The plan was to have students learn about Ella’s life and music during the day and hopefully attend a live concert of one of her last students in the evening with the rest of the community – like a community-based field trip.
My favorite memory of the community concert series were The Glen Miller Orchestra performances on Mother’s Day. The tribute to veterans in the audience was incredible. I also enjoyed seeing members of the high school jazz band practicing and performing with professional musicians on some of our countries culturally significant music. I hope this experience was a lifetime memory for the students. It certainly will be for me.
The performances were a great way to bring in professional performers to introduce different genres and culture associated with the music our students learn about during the school day. The Glen Miller Orchestra, a Beatles Tribute, a Frankie Valli Tribute, The Lexington Symphony, A Motown Group, A Texas Swing Group, and an Ella Fitzgerald protege’ provided an incredible opportunity for students to locally experience important music alongside their parents and other community members. Another great example is the Lexington Symphony generously taking time to introduce students to all of the instruments in the orchestra – something that they are learning about in school.
The Music Revolving account was the account used because of the ability to sell tickets using the TIX system. I had hoped that over time the attendance would support the cost of booking the groups. My objective was to break even. This goal was not reached. As stated, the intention from the outset was to use the tuition from international students to expand the curriculum and involve the community in this learning opportunity with students since our international guests were all benefiting from their time in Burlington. Tuition dollars were also used to supplement ticket prices to keep the cost around $20 per ticket. The low ticket prices were to encourage seniors to participate in the concerts as the inter-generational aspect of the program was important to the overall vision. The link below details the losses from 2017. In hindsight I should have been more forward about the funding coming from ticket sales and international student tuition.
Like many curriculum ideas, this one did not fully succeed. We did not have enough community members and students participate in the evening events. Clearly this attempt at connecting district curriculum across Town is bringing negative attention to the music department and causing deficits in the music revolving account. Because of this negative attention, I ended the series this year.
As a final comment, I would like to thank John Middleton for volunteering his time, the Music Boosters for providing the meals for the performers and the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC) for their partnership throughout the Community Concert Series. While the BACC’s overall support of the school district is tremendous, their specific support of the concerts greatly enhanced the experience. The BACC provided refreshments before and during intermission as well as discounted hotel rates for the performers who required accommodations. Thank you.