The Windsor Symphony Orchestra is using music to teach elementary students life skills, such as mental wellness, the importance of practice and the benefits of chasing long-term goals.
Assistant conductor Francisco Hernández Bolaños said students from kindergarten to Grade 6 learn "active listening skills, essential skills in learning and ... social skills like respect."
Hernández Bolaños said the orchestra presentation shows students the basics of "how composers create music," using a scaled-down version of the full WSO.
"We are bringing the core of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, which is a string ensemble and five winds, which is flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon," he said.
The orchestra will visit Dr. David Suzuki Public School in Windsor and Malden Central Public School in Amherstburg on Friday. Earlier this week, the musicians visited schools in Leamington, Wheatley, Tecumseh and Belle River.
They're teaching "how composers can create music by using sounds that are high and low and strong and soft," Hernández Bolaños said.
"Combining those two elements, we teach them basic, essential listening skills, and they can listen to a thing, a whole concert at the beginning to end, just focusing on those two concepts," he said.
Dr. Bernadette Berthelotte, arts consultant for the Greater Essex County District School Board, said having Hernández Bolaños teach these programs makes it easier for children to connect with symphonic music.
"There's this stereotype that surrounds going to the symphony and it's always been viewed as something that is more of an elite experience," she said.
"He's a young guy, and so he has this relevancy to the kids that is really unique when it comes to education."
Berthelotte said a bonus of the symphony program is that the orchestra comes to the schools, rather than expecting classes to come to the performance hall.
"We have ongoing busing issues for field trips. Coming out of COVID with shortages and creating field trips for kids has been really difficult this school year," she said.
For students who spent the past two years learning from home, Berthelotte said seeing live music is important.
"Going back to a symphony, being able to see live music, a lot of [the kids] are seeing it for the first time ever, because they never got the experience in school," she said.
Hernández Bolaños hopes he will be able to teach the students commitment, discipline and how to achieve long-term goals.
"That means sitting down, practicing or studying and seeing the results later, which is also a very good life skill to have," he said.