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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Early Childhood Professional Development Workshops Go Global

By Eric Dundon

They marched. They roared. They banged on instruments. They waved scarves.

But this Early Childhood Professional Development Workshop by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, like many things, looked a little different this year. This training—part of regular professional development opportunities offered to Pre-K classroom teachers by the SLSO—was held virtually for the first time in January due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These workshops equip teachers with the tools to incorporate music in their classroomsto help foster an interest in music with the youngest students.

“Teachers are facing incredible challenges this year, so we continue to find ways to support them. These workshops gave teachers the rare opportunity to learn and share ideas about how music can be a part of their teaching, whether it’s happening in classrooms or online,” said Sarah Ruddy, the SLSO’s Education Programs Coordinator for Early Childhood Classrooms.

Sheila Baer, an early childhood expert, demonstrates ways to show loud or soft music using a scarf to music educators during an SLSO Early Childhood Professional Development Workshop on January 9.

Although holding professional development events virtually presented new challenges, it also opened new doors for the SLSO team in connecting with educators. Instead of connecting only with educators living near to the orchestra’s home at Powell Hall, this year’s training extended well beyond St. Louis to teachers across the region, nation, and beyond.

For the first time, the SLSO’s Professional Development Activities went global.

In addition to teachers representing classrooms in St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the Metro East, teachers attended the workshop from ten other states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Even further afield, teachers from Argentina, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Spain joined in the fun.

“We’re thrilled that teachers from around the world were able to participate in the same professional development opportunity that has been so highly valued for years among educators in our own community,” said Maureen Byrne, the SLSO’s Associate Vice President of Education and Community Partnerships.

In the workshop, Ruddy, along with SLSO Director of Education Jessica Ingraham and early childhood expert Sheila Baer, demonstrated ways teachers can integrate music into classroom through song, stories, movement, and other forms of social emotional learning using the story “The Lion and the Mouse.”

The workshops continued the SLSO’s long history of supporting music education.

Adapted Early Childhood Professional Development Workshops is just one of the ways the SLSO remains engaged with educators while in-person events have been paused. The SLSO began a series of digital workshops, Studio Time for Teachers, that offers professional development with SLSO musicians. In the first workshop, Music Director Stéphane Denève walked teachers through how he approaches a score in preparation for orchestra rehearsal.

The SLSO also recently launched SLSO SoundLab, a four-part video and activity series for use in the classroom that explores the intersection of music, science, and technology. The orchestra has also expanded its library of downloadable activities and offered new ways for band and orchestra students to connect directly with musicians through digital workshops.

Learn more at

Eric Dundon is the Public Relations Manager for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


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