Most of the 800 seats in the New Albany High School auditorium were filled Friday afternoon by elementary school students in a Carnegie Link Up performance, playing musical instruments and singing with a professional symphony orchestra.
It was the second year New Albany Elementary School students were able to listen to and perform with a professional symphony. Relatively few elementary students in the United States ever have such an opportunity. It is made possible by a financial endowment from the Carnegie Foundation of New York and money raised from local Union County contributors by members of the New Albany Symphony League.
New Albany resident Joyce Sumners, a strong supporter of the Tupelo orchestra from the time it was founded four decades ago, has driven the effort to make symphony performances in New Albany possible.
The North Mississippi Orchestra (NMSO), of Tupelo, MS, under the leadership of its conductor and musical director Steven Byess, partners with the Carnegie Link Up Program, whose nationwide goal is to expose young students to classical music. Tupelo’s orchestra is a full, professional orchestra which draws from professional musicians in Mississippi and several surrounding states. Byess and the Carnegie Foundation have helped make the opportunity available to Tupelo elementary students to perform with the orchestra for a number of years.
Last year was the first time New Albany elementary students were able to perform with the orchestra. The New Albany Symphony League has raised money and sponsored annual concerts in New Albany by the Tupelo-based orchestra for several years. However, the hiring last year of music educator Celia Thompson House made it possible to for New Albany elementary students to enjoy this unique educational opportunity.
House, a New Albany native, had worked with the Link Up program in the Tupelo schools. Jackie Ford, who will retire at the end of June as New Albany’s school superintendent, recruited House as the music educator at New Albany Elementary School. Another New Albany educator reflected the views of many parents and other local residents earlier this week when she referred to House as “a gift for this community.”
The role of music education in developing educational aptitude, especially in mathematics, has been recognized for many years. House and the Link Up program give New Albany students in the second through fifth grades an exceptional learning experience of incalculable worth. Most students do not get this opportunity until college, if ever.
Seven hundred of the elementary students benefiting from this year’s Link Up program are from New Albany, and about 40 of the elementary students this year were Pontotoc elementary school students.
2017 Carnegie Link Up performance, New Albany, MS
(click to enlarge/download photo)