A Musical Memory Lane
When I was a kid, my school had a special assembly for my entire 4th grade. About 100 of us sat on the carpet in the atrium that also served as a multipurpose/performance area and watched someone show us the various instruments that we would soon have the opportunity to learn how to play when we started 5th grade. There were drums, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, and more. The whole thing probably didn’t take more than an hour and at the end of it we all lined up behind the instrument we were most interested in trying. I picked the flute.
A special pandemic project
I’m not alone in this type of memory. A lot of musicians will tell you that similar moments like that one in their own elementary school is what started them on their own musical career path. While I never became a professional musician, it did help foster a love music, the discipline of practice, and the triumph of teamwork.
All of that is why I was so excited when the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra came to WFSU with a special pandemic project. The TSO had been the only nonprofit in Leon County to receive a NEA grant to create a online video project for kids that gives an up-close-and-and-personal introduction to each instrument, instrument family and the musicians of the orchestra. We would get to see how the instruments worked, find out how the musicians got their start, and how they all come together for a grand performance of the 1812 Overture. Students would be able to access these videos and additional materials to help them decided what instrument they might want to try out for themselves.
A musical adventure is born
The TSO Director Amanda Stringer led the project and had a definite idea for what she wanted. It was to be an adventure for children filled with fun, excitement and plenty of music. With the idea of each instrument sounding like an animal, the concept of the “Symphonic Safari Adventure!” was born and local Southern Shakespeare Actors Laura Johnson and Bert Mitchell came on board to serve as our entertaining guides on this journey. They became “Violetta Vibrato” and “Roger Rhythm” and after weeks of preparation, our intrepid adventurers interviewed each of the musicians in WFSU’s television studio as well as at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall.
The musicians are talented, and when interviewed by Roger and Vi, you can also see how funny they can be and how much they love what they do. They enjoy demonstrating how the instruments work and what weird sounds or animal noises it can make. They answer questions about how they got started playing, how many hours they practice, and what it takes to work together as a small ensemble or as part of a big orchestra. There are even rapid fire questions to find out fun things about the musician. Star Wars or Star Trek? Chocolate Ice Cream or Vanilla?
All are available online
All the videos live online and can be accessed through TSOsafari.org. Click on the animals to learn about the various instruments and the musical families they make up. Plus, there is an activity book with a variety of learning exercises.
Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.
Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.
Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.
In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.