Music can help kids do well in school, find a lifelong passion, spark their curiosity – and it’s fun. The Chamber Music Festival returns to the Black Hills for the 12th year with a mission to introduce as many kids to music as possible.
The festival incorporates a Classical Concert Series for adults and music education programs for area kids and teens. This summer, festival organizers Michael Hill and Dawn Marie Edwards and an ensemble of top musicians and educators from throughout the United States will present more than 50 programs at libraries, schools and community centers throughout the Black Hills, all free of charge. For a complete schedule of kids’ programs, go to cmfbh.org/education
“Learning to play an instrument teaches patience, focus and increased cognitive learning skills – the same skills students need to excel in school. The programs are designed to give the students the skills and tools necessary to succeed academically and achieve higher life goals,” said Edwards, the artistic/education director.
Hands-on and interactive learning is part of many of the programs and special events. Through a partnership with Barefoot Dance Studio, the festival’s series of children’s concerts will be interactive, Hill said. After the concerts, children can visit a musical “petting zoo” where they’ll have the chance to play a child-sized viola, violin, cello, bass and harp with assistance from professional musicians.
Musical Story Times blend art and classical music with favorite fairy tales – including one just for South Dakota children called “The Gingerbread Man Lost in the Black Hills.”
“Musical story time stories are set to classical music kids are likely to recognize from movies, commercials and video games,” Edwards said. “It captures their attention.”
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The festival offers Sensory Friendly Family Musical Story Times for children who have autism or other sensory disabilities.
For teens who are considering musical careers, the festival provides master classes on July 21 at Calvary Lutheran Church in Rapid City. Students can receive instruction from professional musicians, and guidance with college applications and scholarships, Hill said.
A new addition this year is Discovery of Strings, part of the Discovery program at General Beadle School in Rapid City. Through matching grants from the Classics for Kids Foundation in Boston and the South Dakota Community Foundation, Hill and Edwards were able to buy eight violins, four violas and a cello that children can use. Almost 20 students are learning to play string instruments through the Discovery program, Hill said, and the festival hopes to find opportunities to continue the program year-round.
Additionally, the festival received a donation of five harps from a musician in Florida.
“We have now instituted a harp ensemble for 10 children at General Beadle. The programs are off to a great start with more children than we had expected,” Hill said. “We also have over 50 children enrolled in the general music classes, where we share the history of classical music in a manner that increases relevance and understanding of the world’s greatest composers.”
“Children are learning how music relates to them,” Edwards said.