Written by Peter Marck
It's hard to believe that KeyNote, the Israel Philharmonic's education program, has "grown up" to become a teenager. Since its inception, KeyNote, initiated and directed by Irit Rub, has offered ten seasons of activities with kids from kindergarten to university, contributing to the fabric of Israeli society and adding a new dimension to orchestra life.
I had the good fortune to share in KeyNote's beginning. Back in the days of the Oslo Accords, the IPO ran a short and effective program for Israeli and Palestinian children. One concert, for children of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, was a multi-cultural, bi-lingual encounter full of good will and fun, featuring the IPO percussion section and an ensemble of Arab musicians from Nazareth. The finale of the concert was a joint performance of Tico-Tico; Arab and Jewish musicians jamming with the children. After the concert, the American Friends of the IPO said, "Wow! That was incredible..." and quickly followed with, "How can we make this happen?" KeyNote was the answer and their immediate support made it possible. Today, it's difficult to imagine the "pre-KeyNote" days of the IPO. Reaching out to the community, educating in schools and enriching the lives of so many children have now become an integral part of the orchestra's activity.
Since its first season, with only 600 third and fourth graders participating, it has grown to a yearly capacity of 23,000 children of all ages. The budget is nearly five times the original size. In addition to 13 mornings of concerts, which the full orchestra has added to its schedule, 70 IPO musicians regularly take part in the invaluable in-school, classroom presentations. The themes of the programs are now familiar to all IPO members and to the music teachers in the schools: Spanish Fiesta, East-West, Pictures at an Exhibition, Legends in Music, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Vienna: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
These ten years have been full of "firsts" for the IPO and have included more than a few moments of incredible fulfillment: the first interactive piece - 6000 children performing Moshe Zorman's The Flood with the orchestra; Perlman at the Mann: the first violin day with Yitzhak Perlman, which overwhelmed KeyNote's fax machine for four days straight; the first performance of Lorin Maazel's The Empty Pot, translated by the late Ehud Manor; the first youth concert in Arabic; the first Arab musicians to perform regularly with the IPO; the first appearance of the Arab-Jewish Ensemble at Tanglewood; and the first visits of IPO musicians to boarding schools.
KeyNote is a generator of new works, commissioning pieces by Israeli composers Moshe Zorman, Ronen Shapira, Gil Shohat, Eyal Bat, Robert Mozes, Eitan Steinberg, Oded Zehavi, Wisam Gibran and joining the army, has grown from one concert a year to four. Instrument days for violin, trumpet, flute, cello, piano, and "play-alongs" with Zubin Mehta for brass and woodwinds have become a regular attraction, placing the IPO at the center of activities for Israel's conservatories and music teachers. The waiting list of schools wishing to join KeyNote's activities is growing longer.
The enthusiastic response to KeyNote doesn't end with schools, conservatories and communities; other Israeli orchestras have taken a hard look at the IPO's success. They are imitating its techniques, purchasing teaching material and establishing programs built on the KeyNote model.
This is the second season that KeyNote is responsible for the IPO's Family Series. Each concert is preceded by a pre-concert event of varied and interactive activities, which prepares the children for the concert itself.
KeyNote has enjoyed the support of the American Friends of the IPO, the Schusterman Foundation-Israel, the Legacy Heritage Fund, the Lewkovich Foundation, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, Sal Tarbut of the Tel Aviv-Yaffo Municipality, national Sal Tarbut and other generous individuals and organizations.
KeyNote's school activity continues its close association with musicologist and music educator Dr. Dochy Lichtensztajn, Pedagogical Director, Levinski School of Music Education at the Levinski College of Education, Tel Aviv, Rinat Gilad-Efron, Supervisor of Music Education in the Tel Aviv area, Ministry of Education, and Orna Haritan, Supervisor of Music Education in the central area, Ministry of Education.
The biggest "winner" of all this activity is without a doubt the IPO itself. There's no promise that today's third graders will be tomorrow's concert-goers, and investing in education doesn't always pay off in ticket sales, but the positive experience of every child at the Mann Auditorium opens the door for the future. Performing in schools for children, seeing their eyes riveted on the instruments, hearing them participate with all their heart in performances at the Mann Auditorium has brought new life into the orchestra and for some of us, renewed faith in the power of classical music. As one of my colleagues said to me after a morning spent in the classroom, "I don't know how to say it, but I come out of these sessions with a feeling of 'mission'."
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