Concert acts as learning experience

Published 6:20 pm Saturday, October 4, 2014

By Margo Bissen

Sweet Sounds of Harmony/Austin Symphony Orchestra

The first concert of the season for the Austin Symphony Orchestra has traditionally been the last Sunday in October.

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For many years the ASO has added two children’s concerts on the following Monday, These performances are attended by nearly 2,500 fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students. Study materials are provided to participating schools in order to prepare students for the live, symphonic orchestra experience.

As a result of this background knowledge, the audience is appreciative and attentive. Maestro Steve Ramsey assures them that if they practice diligently, they too, will be able to perform with the orchestra someday.

This concert is a highlight of the year for students, as evidenced in the thank you notes the ASO receives.

To further enhance the learning experience for audiences, guest performers are often included on the October program.

In the past, featured artists have included Minnesota Opera, Minnesota storyteller Kevin Kling, Minnesota composer Linda Tutas Haugen and Native American Flautist Keith Bear, to name a few.

This year, Mariachi Nuevo De Las Vegas, an ensemble of music teachers from Nevada, will be guest performers. Their collaboration with the ASO will be an adventure for them as well, marking their first appearance with a symphonic orchestra.

The idea to feature a mariachi group began with Tim Davis, a member of ASO and a band director in Austin Public Schools.

In the past 20 years Austin’s population has enjoyed a growth in diversity, with many Latino families joining the community.  Davis recognized an opportunity for the band program to embrace a new tradition; encouraging all students to participate in making music.

Mariachi Del Norte (Mariachi of the North) was born. The group includes students in grades 8-12 who rehearse regularly and perform in concert and community events.

Through a generous grant from the Austin Public Education Foundation and donations from Music Boosters of Austin, Mariachi Nuevo De Las Vegas will spend portions of both Friday and Saturday of the concert weekend working with Mariachi Del Norte, area students, music teachers and other instrumentalists.

What a marvelous experience this will be for musicians young and old.

And what a great way for our community to celebrate the Mariachi tradition.

The concerts will also include music by Marquez, Lecuono, and plenty of Latin Sizzle. To purchase a season ticket, visit our website: or contact Martha Chancellor at 507-460-8032.

Tickets are also available at Austin Hy-Vee and Coffee House on Main. Adult: $12 in advance, $15 at the door; College: $10 advance, $12 at the door; K-12 students: no charge

Thanks to all who generously support the Austin Symphony Orchestra. Enjoy the Sweet Sounds of Harmony the ASO has to offer.