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Fairfax Symphony Awarded for Music Education Program

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (FSO) is one of five arts organizations in Virginia to receive an ArtStar award from Dominion Energy this year.

The FSO announced on Jan. 27 that it had received a $10,000 grant from the utility company to support its “Link Up” music education program, which was developed by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall as a curriculum for students in third through fifth grade.

Dominion Energy created the ArtStar awards to “celebrate the contributions of arts organizations through their collaboration with schools and communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia,” according to the company’s website.

The awards went to one nonprofit arts and education organization with an annual budget under $1 million in each of Virginia’s five regions, making FSO the winner for the Northern region. Recipients were selected based on the artistic merit, innovation, and community impact of the program they submitted.

The other 2021 winners were Arts for Learning in Norfolk, Art for the Journey in Richmond, Halestone Foundation in Lexington, and The Origin Project in Big Stone Gap.

“These organizations show ways the creative spirit continues to thrive, whether through outdoor, virtual or digital programming,” Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation President Hunter A. Applewhite said. “Virginia is very fortunate to have these talented organizations committed to serving their local communities and youth.”

Based out of the Merrifield area, the Fairfax Symphony (2667 Prosperity Ave.) says it is the largest symphonic performing arts organization in Northern Virginia. It serves more than 15,000 people every season through performances and educational programs.

This was the fourth year that FSO provided the Link Up program to local schools, but the 2020-2021 school year was the first time that the curriculum was made available for free and virtually, leading to a 1,000% increase in the number of teachers who registered for the program, according to the orchestra.

Developed more than 30 years ago by Carnegie Hall, Link Up pairs orchestras with local elementary schools so students can learn about music and how to play an instrument or sing, culminating in a performance alongside the professional orchestra. The 2020-2021 program was shared by more than 120 partner organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

With the theme of “The Orchestra Swings,” FSO’s program focused on the connection between classical and jazz music, and featured the work of musicians like Duke Ellington, Florence Price, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein.

While the move was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FSO says shifting Link Up to a virtual format allowed it to expand the program’s reach not just within Fairfax County Public Schools, which has been a partner for over 40 years, but also to schools in other jurisdictions, including Loudoun and Prince William counties as well as the City of Alexandria.

More than 10,000 students in 60 schools from around the D.C. region are participating in FSO’s Link Up program this year. The orchestra places a particular emphasis on included Title I schools, where at least 40% of students come from low-income families.

The program will conclude in May with a pre-recorded concert that will be shared in virtual classrooms. Students will accompany the FSO by singing along and playing recorders.

FSO Executive Director Jonathan Kerr says the organization is “thrilled and honored” to be a Dominion ArtStar award recipient.

“Our commitment to our community is stronger than ever, only strengthened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kerr said. “By sharing our concerts and education programs virtually, we are filling a critical need for quality arts programs to entertain, educate, inspire, sustain, and unite the communities we serve.”

Photo courtesy Dominion Energy

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