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Black Hills Symphony Orchestra gives free concert to students

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C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Elementary music teacher Christine Leichtnam leads a group of students invited on stage to conduct the orchestra

The Black Hills Symphony Orchestra performed a concert for an auditorium of passionate music fans. The catch – this audience was mostly made up of ten-year-old students.

The Monument Arena in Rapid City filled up with busloads of students and teachers from local elementary schools.

BHSO conductor Bruce Knowles said this is the perfect age to introduce kids to the symphony.

“Why fourth grade? Well, in fourth grade these kids are starting in the public schools strings – string instruments – at every elementary school across the town, and in fifth grade next year they can start band,” Knowles said.

Knowles said the rules are a bit different when performing for a room of fourth graders.

“Especially if they recognize a tune, you can hear them instantly responding to that," Knowles said. "Sometimes they clap in the middle which is fantastic. In the concert hall we discourage that but here it is absolutely beautiful – absolutely beautiful. In Frozen they were singing along to the tunes that they knew, it was great.”

Other recognizable film scores included the Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music.

Christine Leichtnam is an elementary music teacher at Corral Drive School. She said these moments inspire children to dream big.

“Sometimes it comes from a listening experience like the orchestra concert today, or sometimes they hear a fellow classmate play and they just get excited about their future as a musician," Leichtnam said. "So, it’s fun to have them be as excited as music as I am.”

The BHSO has conducted this student concert for over 25 years.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.