A couple of fall mornings each year, something magical happens at the Renaissance Theatre. School buses begin to pull into the parking lot and as soon as they are parked, children get off with their teachers and get in line to come inside. They have all arrived to participate in an program put on by the Renaissance Education Department called Operation Bridge Building.
Operation Bridge Building started in 2008 and is the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra's major education initiative for local schools. The program is designed to both enhance K-5 classroom courses, as well as support the music education for those in public or private school and those who are home schooled in Richland county and surrounding counties. To help prepare students to attend the Operation Bridge Building full-scale symphony concerts here at the Renaissance, we provide them with study guides that go over the music the students will hear and show them how to be good audience members. As well, small groups of Mansfield Symphony Orchestra members visit schools to put on more intimate concerts for the students. Operation Bridge Building serves well over 7,000 local students annually through the full-scale symphony concerts in the theatre and the in-school chamber concerts.
Director of Operations/Education Manager Chelsie Thompson said that each year the schedule for the full-scale symphony concerts is pretty much the same.
"Musicians start to arrive at 8:45 AM, school buses start to arrive by 9:15 AM. We have about 8-10 volunteers and staff that run between the parking lot and building to get students into their seats. Some volunteers meet the buses and lead them up to the doors, others wait at the doors and take the kids from there into the theatre," Chelsie said. "The first concert begins at 9:45 AM and lasts between 35-45 minutes depending on the age group of the students. We release the kids by school and they head out to buses, so the theatre feels really quiet all of a sudden. In between concerts, the musicians take a break - they might grab a cup of coffee, have meetings or rehearse, practice their parts, or just read a book. The next group of students starts to arrive around 11:15 AM and we do it all over again for the 11:45 AM concert."
Last year, ten school districts sent a total of sixteen schools to participate in the full-scale symphony concerts here at the Ren. An additional seven districts, a total of thirteen schools, participated in this initiative through our in-school chamber concerts. All in all, we were able to serve 29 schools across 17 districts in 2016.
Chelsie said the performances that happen in a school rather than in the theatre are designed to be a little bit more personal.
"We have a very well-established brass trio, woodwind trio, and string quartet," Chelsie said. "Each group has a unique, varied repertoire and script that they use for these 45-minute concerts, covering everything from classical to pop to traditional folk music."
The full-scale symphony concerts preformed here at the Renaissance are designed to expose children to a wide variety of instruments, as well as using music to tie in state standards.
"Our main education concerts here at the Ren are tied to core curriculum standards, often literacy, math, or social studies, and these are a great opportunity to reinforce the material that students are learning in the classroom as well as take students on an exciting arts field trip," Chelsie said.
Altogether, Operation Bridge Building engages students and teachers alike by providing high quality symphonic programming and a curriculum that integrates the arts with academics.
The Operation Bridge Building program is underwritten so that schools may participate free of charge. Without community support, schools would have to pay upwards of $4 per student to participate in this program. As a result of not charging for schools to participate, they save a combined $25,000 each year. Our concert schedule fills up very quickly, so we highly encourage interested schools to contact us early.
This year, the Operation Bridge Building concert here at the Renaissance Theatre will take place on October 19 at 9:45 AM and 11:45 AM and October 20 at 9:45 AM. and 11:45 AM. If you or your school would like to learn more about Operation Bridge Building, please contact Chelsie Thompson at [email protected] or 419-522-2726 ext. 251.