By Katy Trimble
Jennings Senior High School students watched the performances of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra musicians in Logan University’s Purser Center auditorium with awe and curiosity. The silence from the students' fascination on double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser, violinist Xiaoxiao Qiang, and cellist Yin Xiong turned into enthusiastic cheering and clapping once the performances had ended—some students even jumping out of their seats in praise.
This was the first SLSO College Connections performance of the 2022/2023 season, an SLSO education program that provides middle and high school music students in the region the opportunity to visit college campuses and attend an SLSO chamber concert. On November 7, students from Jennings orchestra, band, and choir programs visited the campus of Logan University.
“I can’t think of a better example of the SLSO’s mission than using music to open opportunities for people in our community,” said Maureen Byrne, SLSO Associate Vice President of Education and Community Partnerships. “Through College Connections, students can see that college is not this foreign place. They feel welcomed and included. After the trip, they can say ‘College is a comfortable place. I can see myself here.’”
The students exposed to higher education through College Connections may have limited opportunities to visit colleges during their formative years, and the colleges involved in the program welcome music students with open arms. Music education engages students in school, motivating them toward higher achievement and education and colleges appreciate this.
Logan University, a Chesterfield-based institution that specializes in chiropractic and health sciences, welcomed the 20 Jennings music students to watch performances from SLSO musicians, tour the campus, learn about the resources and activities that facilitate student success, and understand connections between playing an instrument and chiropractic science.
Dr. Herb Caldwell, Chief of Compliance and Engagement at Logan University, encouraged the students to have an educational and inspiring experience.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t achieve,” Caldwell said as he spoke about being the first man in his family to receive a college degree. “Anyone can be standing in my shoes. Your education journey starts here, right now.”
There is a high correlation between music education and STEM education that leads to career paths currently in high demand. Music education fosters the development of skills often attributed to individuals in STEM fields, including strong memory recall, logical and abstract thinking, responsibility, socialization within groups, and creativity.
“These opportunities remind me that exposure is everything,” said James McKay, Orchestra Director for the Jennings School District and former St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra Member. “As a kid, I saw men wearing suits and I said to myself ‘you know, when I become older, I think I want to wear a suit.’ In the same fashion, having the kids on campus sets them at ease to begin to make those plans. They can say, ‘that is something I want to do when I graduate.’ I think it is paramount that things like this happen.”
The College Connections visit to Logan featured a solo performance by SLSO double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser and a duet by violinist Xiaoxiao Qiang and cellist Yin Xiong. Dr. Daryl Ridgeway, Executive Director of Simulated Learning Center at Logan, invited the students to observe the performances through the lens of physicality. After the performances, students assessed how music performance impacts the body by paying close attention to the posture, form, positioning, and movement of the musicians. Ridgeway explained how students learn to treat related injuries at Logan University, emphasizing how important it is to monitor your physical and mental status as a musician.
Jennings Senior High School orchestra students were given the rare opportunity to advance their understanding of the structures and complexities of the human body through first-hand observation of the body’s systems. Logan University’s “Tour of the Body” allowed the students to nurture a deeper appreciation for the human body as Doctor of Chiropractic students demonstrated the functions of specific bones, muscles, and organs with emphasis on what is being used when various instruments are played.
Endya Young, Orchestra President at Jennings Senior High School, was effusive about her experience.
“When I get older, I want to go into the mortuary field,” she explained. “I really enjoyed being in the cadaver lab and seeing how chiropractic science is connected to music… I was happy to see my fellow peers enjoy themselves too. It was heartwarming to see them excited about something that I want to do.”
She predicted that music will be a lifetime hobby for her.
Students that seemed skeptical hours earlier were filled with excitement and a sense of belonging when the visit ended, leaving with smiles on their faces and a better idea of what their futures could look like.
Learn more about the SLSO College Connections program.
Katy Trimble is a member of the SLSO communications team.