N’Kyia Dumpson enjoys playing the flute and, through practice, she’s becoming a better musician every day.
“Playing the flute really change my life,” Dumpson said about her four years of experience. “It’s really fun.”
The Clinton High School (CHS) freshman picked up new skills through the North Carolina Symphony (NCS). Inside the school’s media center, Dumpson received a lot of tips from one of the top flute players in the state — Anne Whaley Laney. Some of Laney’s knowledge focused on breathing and finger techniques, scales and tone production.
“I’ve played in the NC Symphony for 30 years, and appreciate the mission we undertake in educating students in North Carolina about classical music,” Laney said. “It’s always a thrill to meet adults throughout the state who remember when the Symphony came to their town years ago.”
With help from The Simple Gifts Fund, a local philanthropic organization, the NCS created a three-year residency to bring music and learning opportunities to Sampson County. The residency includes performance at schools, activities, resources and professional development for teachers, and a free community performance. In the third year, middle and high school students will perform with symphony musicians.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Dumpson said. “They get to teach us new things and help us out on a couple of things.”
According to a NCS news release, the organization believes music experiences develop lifelong skills and creates a sense of community. The members are looking forward to working with Sampson County Schools (SCS), Clinton City Schools (CCS) and other organizations in the area, to develop a long-term presence in Sampson County. Founded in 1932, the NCS performs throughout the state under the leadership of Music Director Grant Llewellyn and Associate Conductor David Glover.
“Our students are learning so much,” said CHS Principal Dr. Steven Miller. “This is a great outreach.”
Margaret Turlington, Simple Gifts Fund coordinator, said she was thrilled to provide an enriching cultural opportunity through the three-year music residency, which will benefit students, educators and community members.
“The North Carolina Symphony is a true treasure for our state,” Turlington noted, “and I hope all Sampson residents will take advantage of these musical experiences.”
SCS and CCS educators are looking forward to the experience as well.
“Music and the other arts, including dance, theater, and visual arts, are academic subjects providing immense knowledge that helps our students to become college and career ready, and to grow into lifelong lovers of the arts,” said Dr. Rue S. Lee-Holmes, general music teacher and Arts Education Coordinator for Sampson County Schools.
Hobbton District Band Director Geoffrey Tart added that students having exposure to professional musicians is a great honor and privilege.
“We are very thankful to The Simple Gifts Fund and the North Carolina Symphony, and are looking forward to the future and the impact on the local music and band programs in our area,” Tart said.
As part of the residency, NCS musicians including an oboist, bassoonist, clarinetist, and flutist hosted a master class in December to coach students from Hobbton Middle School and Hobbton High School. It allow students to improve technical and expressive skills. During the process, it allows students to receive advice from professional orchestra musicians.
According to a CCS news release, many students appreciated the visit from the professionals and shared their experiences.
“I feel very blessed that the symphony can come to our school and help me with my playing and that my band director cares very much about our progress in flute playing,” student Jalessa shared.
Joe was another student excited and ready to learn.
“I’ve been playing for about a month,” he said. “I was playing clarinet, but I play the bassoon now. It’s pretty cool.”
Joe said it’s a challenging instrument to play and he’s the only one who does it.
“The NC Symphony is really good,” he remarked. “It’s nice to see someone that good show me how to play the instrument.”
In the master class, students also received lessons about how biology plays a role. Some of it involved the diaphragm and breathing skills. Roberto, a middle school student, enjoyed having a professional help him though struggles.
“The NC Symphony is helping us to make All District Band and All State Band,” Roberto attested. “I haven’t had actual help like this before, however I’ve seen the NC Symphony perform.”
Vevlyn Lowe, band director for Sampson Middle School (SMS), showed appreciation for the NCS through Simple Gifts.
“It is wonderful to have an organization like Simple Gifts that supports the development of well-rounded individuals by providing opportunities like the master classes with members of the North Carolina Symphony.”
CHS Band Director Travis Jordan also showed gratitude to Simple Gifts and the NCS.
“The opportunity to work personally with a professional musician is an experience that the students at Clinton High School will never forget.”
SMS Principal Greg Dirks believes it’s an awesome opportunity for students and teachers.
“We love hearing great sounds,” Dirks said.
The residency began in September with a teacher workshop in Clinton which focused on lesson plan ideas to increase students’ understanding of concepts taught at education concerts, in alignment with the music curriculum set by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
The symphony presented its annual teacher workshop in Raleigh for many years. According to officials, 2016 marked the first year, that the symphony held an workshop outside of Raleigh. During the school year, the organization will bring a small string quartet and woodwind quintet into elementary classrooms for educational purposes. Next year, the instrument zoo will allow fifth-graders from Sampson County a chance to try out orchestral instruments. The purpose is to help with band recruitment.
Another aspect is the education concerts and corresponding classroom curriculum for fourth- and fifth-grade students. Two education concerts are scheduled for Jan.9. About 1,500 students are expected to attend to learn about concepts such as rhythm, melody, tempo and dynamics.
Preschoolers and their family will be able to enjoy the Music Discovery program, which combines an introduction of instruments and storytelling. Six events will be scheduled at preschools through March. Another highlight will be a free chamber music concert for the community, scheduled for March. It will include popular music for people of all ages.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.