Spokane fourth-graders chattered excitedly as they filtered into the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox on Tuesday for a symphony experience.
“I’ve never been to a symphony before,” said Gabe Johnson, a Linwood Elementary School student. His classmate, Christian Storer, 9, was excited, too. “I like classical (music) better than rock ‘n’ roll.”
The boys were among thousands of fourth-graders who converged for Spokane Symphony’s 40-plus-year tradition of helping inspire musical ambitions among Eastern Washington grade-school students, who can play instruments in school programs starting in fifth grade.
The annual Fourth Grade Music Encounter – in which the full orchestra introduces instruments and their sounds – drew more than 3,200 students from throughout the region; another 1,600 will be in attendance today.
Prior to the field trip, the fourth-graders spent time in class learning about the music they would hear, said Janet Napoles, manager of education programs with the symphony.
This year, “we have three packed houses,” Napoles said. That’s 500 more students than two years ago.
After learning about the instruments, 9-year-old Miguel Arrella decided what he wants to play. “I liked the harp because it has 37 strings, and that’s a lot of strings.”
“I want to play the violin,” said Amelu Ruff, 10.
The program may have inspired at least one child to be a conductor.
Spokane fourth-grader Maya Watson, who was randomly chosen to be a guest conductor, appeared confident as she took the podium to lead the Spokane Symphony.
The 9-year-old had everyone fooled. “That was scary! And fun at the same time,” said the Adams Elementary School student, who thinks it would be “cool” to be a professional conductor. “You’d get to work with a bunch of musicians.”