Houston Symphony Teams Up With Occidental Petroleum To Advance Initiative Impacting Thousands Of Houston-Area Students


Houston Symphony open house

HOUSTON (Jan. 20, 2017) – The Houston Symphony and Occidental Petroleum announced today a partnership to further the Houston Symphony’s yearlong high school residency program that reaches thousands of students in Greater Houston. The announcement was made this morning at Houston Baptist University where the Symphony held two student concerts, which are now an official component of the high school residency program.

In its second year, the intensive residency reaches thousands of band and orchestra students annually in eight select high schools across Greater Houston. Students enrolled in these band and orchestra programs have the unique opportunity to meet regularly with Houston Symphony musicians and learn everything from audition and live performance tips, to composition and practice techniques.

“Our goal with this program is to strengthen the incredible school music programs that already exist in our community by facilitating meaningful interactions that students wouldn’t normally have in their classroom,” said Pam Blaine, chief of Education and Community Programming, Houston Symphony. Blaine adds that aside from helping students develop their musical abilities, which is a very important part of the program, “The Symphony also hopes to inspire students to further their love for music, make personal connections with the art form, and acquire essential critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Members of the Houston Symphony’s education department work closely with ensemble and fine arts directors to customize each program based on the particular group’s goals and available resources. Each group then has the opportunity to attend open rehearsals and concerts, work with musicians on mock auditions and related activities throughout the academic year as well as engage in post-rehearsal discussions and sectional coaching activities. Additionally, the students participate in projects with the Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence as well as clinics and live performance workshops with Houston Symphony Associate Director Robert Franz.

In the 2015-16 academic year, the Houston Symphony high school residency program reached a total of 1,000 students, many of whom stepped into a music hall for the first time. According to Standford Lewis, director of band at Chavez High School, the experience furthered their learning and musical goals. “The students are now able to think critically about a performance they hear or engage in and speak to the higher-level aspects of the music. They have moved beyond expressing ideas about the notes, rhythms or chords to talking about the emotions that the music evokes,” said Standford.

This year, the program is on pace to reach more than 1,100 students in part thanks to the support of Occidental Petroleum.

Student Concerts: a key component of the residency program

This is the fourth year that the Houston Symphony holds a student concert at Houston Baptist University and the first year this concert becomes a formal component of the high school residency. Franz led the orchestra in Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, Wagner’s Overture to Tannheuser and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis. While many of the students in attendance have performed the pieces featured on the program, Franz challenged the students to develop their own interpretations of the music and connect with the composers’ intentions for the piece. 

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2016-17 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its third season with Music Director Andrés Orozco- Estrada, and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $33.9 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 900 community-based performances each year, reaching thousands of people in Greater Houston. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.