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Ambassadors Program Trains CYSO Students to Share Their Love of Music

CYSO’s Ambassadors program is one that flies under the radar a bit, with some in our community unaware of the impressive impact it has each season. Ambassadors taps select Chamber Music ensembles to perform interactive concerts at Chicago Public Schools around the city. While there were just 19 Ambassadors members this season, their concerts reached nearly 5,000 students across 24 schools and 19 neighborhoods. Not only do CYSO musicians learn valuable presentation skills through their participation in the Ambassadors program, but they also experience the joy of sharing their love of music with eager young listeners.

But just because you can play music doesn’t automatically mean you’re ready to hold the attention of an auditorium full of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders! To help with that, Ambassadors students go through training to help them create a program that’s developmentally appropriate and engaging for students in the audience. Two of this year’s Ambassadors their training—Symphony Orchestra trumpet player Bennett King captured photos of the training while clarinetist Davin Lee wrote about the experience learning to be a great ambassador for CYSO.

David Lee (second from left in black) and Bennet King (center in tan and black sweatshirt) with the rest of the 2024 CYSO Ambassadors cohort

CYSO Ambassadors’ first training session was a pivotal meeting for each member to plan their performances and get to know each other. My woodwind quintet, along with several other chamber groups, participated in this session to gain a clearer understanding of what to expect when we arrive in CPS schools. The training session was not just about rehearsing music but also about honing essential skills to communicate with the younger audiences. After all, the program seeks to establish a personal connection with the audience through musical and presentation skills.

One of the highlights of our training session was the development of personalized biographies and instrument demonstrations. In Ambassadors, storytelling is essential to audience engagement, creating a lasting impression while also grabbing the attention of the younger audiences. Each ensemble member created a personal narrative that went beyond musical achievements, sharing the challenges they overcame and the motivations that fueled their journey as a musician.

David Lee presenting his ideas to the group
Training materials

Additionally, in our training session, we worked together on presenting our instruments to younger students. It wasn’t just about showing off our musical skills; it was about sharing the intricacies and details behind each instrument. Ambassadors goes beyond technical details to spark curiosity, helping young listeners connect with the magic of each instrument.

One of my presentation ideas was to reassemble my clarinet in front of the audience and explain the role of each of the five parts. After assembling it, I would demonstrate and explain the importance of the mouthpiece and its control over the entire instrument. The goal was to take the audience on a journey, explaining the significance of our instruments as well as the fundamentals of making coherent sounds.

We also had training on how to present to younger audiences most efficiently. We practiced being engaging and concise, ensuring our bios and instrument presentations were not only informative but also fun and easy to understand. Through some exercises, we created an inclusive environment where questions and audience engagement were encouraged.

Members of Lakeshore Brass Quintet brainstorming ideas as a group

My woodwind group was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform pieces from the renowned opera Carmen. Our presentation goes beyond playing beautiful music as it allows us to delve into the story of Carmen and share the tragic and comedic moments with our audience. Through our performance, we hope to bring the opera to life, providing a front row seat to an incredible narrative through our music.

CYSO’s Ambassadors program is not just about creating musicians; it’s about nurturing and spreading the love for the arts. As our chamber ensembles venture into local schools, they carry with them not just instruments but an impression of the music world.

ABOUT DAVIN & BENNETT

Davin Lee is a sophomore at Lake Forest Academy. He plays clarinet in Symphony Orchestra and has been a member of CYSO for four years.

Bennett King has played trumpet in CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra for the past three years and has been in CYSO programs for six years. He participates in the Ambassadors program with CYSO and currently studies trumpet with Paul Lowry.  Bennett is a sophomore at Oak Park and River Forest High School where he also likes to run on the cross country and track teams. In his free time, Bennett likes to ski, scuba dive, and is a fan of Formula One Racing.

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