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BPO’s West Side Connection school program earns Yale award

Yale University is honoring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for a unique partnership the orchestra has formed with public schools on the city’s West Side.

The program, called West Side Connection, has earned the orchestra the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award.

Yale is conferring the award formally during its School of Music Symposium, held the first week of June. Thirty-seven other programs throughout the country have also earned the distinction.

BPO Education Director Robin Parkinson will atten the symposium along with James Schwanz, who teaches music for the Buffalo Public Schools.

The West Side Connection was a response from the BPO to the increasing number of immigrants at West Side schools. It involves students at 12 schools in the neighborhood of Kleinhans Music Hall. Among them are a Native American magnet school, three bilingual Spanish schools, and three international schools.

The program features guest artist visits, educational activities and a culminating concert. Local and national guest artists have included a break dancer, a Burmese choir and the African-American Cultural Center’s dancers and drummers. The BPO has also featured young winners of the Sphinx Competition, a national event that fosters excellence among black and Hispanic string players.

“Interactive musical engagement programs like the West Side Connection enable our schools to celebrate diversity and address relevant social issues while affording students the opportunity to experience a live orchestra, often for the first time,” Don Oglivie, interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, said when the award was announced. “This initiative serves as an invaluable and irreplaceable supplement to our students’ education while complying with state educational standards and benchmarks.”


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