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Professor, Symphony Conductor Brings Music to Grade School Students

April 21, 2014

Bruce Polay Music Memories Knox-Galesburg Symphony

Literally thousands of local grade school students have experienced classical music, up close and personal, through the Music Memories program, created for the Knox-Galesburg Symphony by its artistic director/conductor Bruce Polay, professor of music at Knox College.

Music Memories is one of several youth programs that Polay launched shortly after he came to Knox in 1983. "I wanted to offer experiences that students were not getting in the schools," Polay says. "Because the technology for recorded music is so good and so available, we tend to lose the fact that live performance has an interaction with music and musicians that you can't have with a set of headphones."

For many years, Music Memories performances have showcased Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens. This year, the guest artist was Lucas Acerra, who played the cello solo, "The Swan," which is one of the movements in the work.

"Carnival of the Animals has a nice spread of instruments," Polay says. "It features a number of musicians on the stage, and it presents two pianos playing together, which students may have never seen before. It also gives them a sense of how a composer might use instruments to create world of animals."

Bruce Polay Music Memories Knox-Galesburg Symphony Music Memories Knox-Galesburg Symphony Bruce Polay Music Memories Knox-Galesburg Symphony Bruce Polay Music Memories Knox-Galesburg Symphony

Helping guide more than 400 kids in and out of the Orpheum for the program on April 8, Dean Petrie, fine arts coordinator for the Galesburg School District, reflected on his own experiences growing up.

"For me, live music has always been inspiring," Petrie says. "Any time we can expose young kids to classical music, it broadens their view of music and gives them a greater appreciation. That's why this is such a great program."

Music Memories is a collaboration between the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, the Orpheum Theatre and school districts in Knox County. This year, students from six Galesburg District 205 elementary schools attended, along with students from Costa Catholic Academy, Williamsfield Elementary School and Mable Woolsey Elementary School in Knoxville. Students from Peoria, Morton and Washington schools also have attended.

Music Memories 2014 was sponsored by Dave's Autobody, Target and Sunrise Rotary Club of Galesburg. Knox College students and Orpheum staff served as volunteers at the event.