Music Appreciation at the Elementary School Level
46 Years of Music Appreciation for Young Children
Music Appreciation at the Elementary School Level, or MAESL, has had an uncompromising task for the past 46 years—to allow elementary school students to see, hear, and touch musical instruments up close. Since its introduction by the Mankato Symphony Guild so many years ago, thousands of southern Minnesotan children have been exposed to classical music.
While nowadays third grade students visit either Mankato East or Mankato West High Schools for the musical demonstration, it didn’t begin that way in 1969. For many years the event was structured around the elementary school schedule. Symphony volunteers delivered high school musicians to the elementary schools where they would then perform a short recital for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classes. The high schoolers would then explain some of their responsibilities as a musician.
This arrangement worked for a time until schedules became a problem. Music teachers’ schedules changed, and it was increasingly more difficult for high school musicians to prepare these “mini concerts” and take the time off from their regular classes to perform at the elementary schools. The idea to transport the elementary school students to the high schools was brought up, and the MAESL demonstrations have followed this format since then.
In addition to the location changing, the grade levels participating in MAESL has also been altered. Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders were receiving the performances as well as attending the Youth Symphony Concert that the Mankato Symphony conducts every year for students. It was decided, instead, that MAESL would focus on third graders. This would allow younger students to first experience individual and small groups of instruments on a personal level before attending a concert with many different sights and sounds.
Now, third grade students learn more about classical music through the MAESL demonstration, and a year later they use that knowledge to attend the Youth Symphony Concert. Both of these events have been huge hits.
Most of the success comes from the simple, yet effective, organization of the MAESL performances. Every year hundreds of third grade students are invited to the Mankato high schools to learn more about musical instruments. These visits are usually between an hour to an hour and a half long, and occur during high school class schedule. The high school musicians put together a twenty minute presentation for each of the instrument groups—the strings, percussion, woodwinds, and brass—and the children move from room to room. Similar, if not the same, to the first presentations over 40 years ago, the high schoolers have a small performance, explain the instruments, and answer questions the third grade students may have.
While the MAESL demonstrations are for educational purposes, it has also served a role in creating music appreciation to students and the community. Children get a better look into the classical music world, and some are even inspired to become musicians themselves. With the help of the Mankato Symphony and the Symphony Guild, MAESL has been a prominent and influential community event for the past 45 years. If things continue this way, MAESL can expect many more years of demonstrations.
MAESL 2016 will take place on February 2 and 3.