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Carnegie Hall Link Up gives kids musical boost

Steven Byess, far left, guest director of the Albany Symphony, conducted the Carnegie Hall Link Up National Event at the Municipal Auditorium Friday. Pictured also are Lynne Sawyer, artistic administrator for the Symphony and Danny Schnitzien, children's author and narrator for the event.

Steven Byess, far left, guest director of the Albany Symphony, conducted the Carnegie Hall Link Up National Event at the Municipal Auditorium Friday. Pictured also are Lynne Sawyer, artistic administrator for the Symphony and Danny Schnitzien, children's author and narrator for the event.

ALBANY, Ga. — Area elementary school students played music with the "big guys" Friday at the Municipal Auditorium during a special program by Carnegie Hall and the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Karen Allen, executive director of the Albany Symphony Association, said the Orchestra Moves concert, a program of Carnegie Hall Link Up National, was the third of three annual programs, the others being Orchestra Rocks and Orchestra Sings.

Allen described the event as a cooperative effort among Carnegie Hall, the orchestra and local schools, giving third, fourth and fifth graders the opportunity to experience a high level symphony orchestra and to participate in the performance.

"Students from the Albany and Lee County public schools were there," Allen said, "and from many of the private and home schools. Some of the kids from Deerfield Windsor danced. This is my favorite concert we do all year."

Allen said the students had the option of singing or playing soprano recorders, along with the full orchestra of about 70 pieces. Structure and most materials for the program was provided by Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute.

Allen said that the Albany Symphony is honored to be a part of the Link Up program, and to be in the company of symphonies from cities such as Austin, Dallas, Jacksonville, Omaha and St. Louis.

"It was a watching time, It was a listening time, and a performing time," said Gary Unger, a music teacher at Twin Oaks Elementary in Lee County.

Unger, who escorted a group of about 185 students to the event, said it was a great opportunity for children to learn about classical music.

"We played three separate numbers on our recorders today," Unger said, "but it was designed for all the socio-economic levels. If you didn't have a recorder, or it you just didn't want to play one, that was all right too."

Steven Byess, music director of the Tupelo (Miss) Symphony and guest conductor for the Albany Symphony, directed Friday's concert event. Byess said that it's "unusual" for a city the size of Albany to have a symphony of the "quality we have here," or even to have a symphony at all. He called the educational opportunity "amazing."

"The most exciting part about his event is the movement of music from the passive to the active. In this way we improve the future lives of children in ways that go well beyond music."

Guest narrator for the musical event was Danny Schnitzien, author of the children's book, "The Monster Who Ate My Peas."

Carnegie Hall Link Up National was sponsored by the Procter & Gamble Foundation, Cincinnati, Albany Procter & Gamble, and Mars Chocolate, North America.