In 1998, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra developed a unique school partnership in response to a request from the Chicago Public Schools: to make music a part of students’ everyday classroom experience while training teachers to use music to facilitate student learning across subjects. This cooperative program, the Music Activity Partnership (MAP), was created with a special emphasis on serving schools that lacked musical resources. And for the past 17 years, MAP has trained select CPS 4th-6th grade teachers to use music as an interdisciplinary teaching tool, making music a part of students’ everyday lives.

In fall 2012, MAP engaged a cohort of eight CPS schools for a three year term, culminating in 2014/15. Through three years of engagement, MAP provided teachers and students with a number of outstanding CSO musical resources. Focusing on 4th-6th grade classrooms, the program introduced students and teachers to the symphony orchestra through visits by CSO teaching artists, an array of classroom instruments and resources, in-school performances by small ensembles of CSO and Civic Orchestra musicians, as well as free tickets to a CSO Youth Concert performed annually by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Teachers attended intensive professional development workshops to enhance their understanding of musical concepts, gain experience leading musical exercises, and network and share ideas with fellow educators.

For nearly the past two decades, MAP and its related activities have been met with overwhelmingly positive responses from both teachers and students. Documented through annual external evaluations, the program has made a significant impact on students’ musical understanding, appreciation, and interest in music. Gains are evident not only during each school year, but across the three-year terms. By the end of their participation in their three-year cohort, teachers show marked improvement in their abilities to comfortably and successfully incorporate musical activities into a variety of subject areas. Teachers, as well as their students, draw connections between music and other core subjects such as reading, writing, social studies, and history, and use music as a tool to support social and emotional learning, critical thinking, and teamwork.

When asked to reflect on the three years of the program, teachers shared how the program helped build community among teachers and students. “MAP became a vehicle that brought the school and teachers together. It fostered collaboration among teachers, brought a significant number of students together, and filtered throughout the whole school. It has been a tremendous opportunity.”

Other teachers commented that MAP inspired a love of music and love of learning among students, particularly around classical music. “The program made classical music ‘accessible’ to students. It never occurred to me that my students would connect with classical music.” Other teachers reflected on their own growth through the program. “I knew zero about classical music or about musicality. Now I’m comfortable enough to share it with other people.”

Teachers also responded that their students’ attendance at the CSO Youth Concert, held at Symphony Center each year, was a transformative experience. “The kids were in awe of it. The entire experience was something they will carry with them forever.” “One of my students turned to me and asked ‘Is this real or recorded?’ He was so astounded that this was the music we had been studying. My students were more engaged than ever.” “My students were never so focused this entire school year.”

Towards the end of the 2014/15 season, MAP teaching artist Cari Dinglasan reflected on MAP’s impact: “I have seen the MAP program inspire teachers to creatively deliver instruction to their students and to think outside of the box. I have watched teachers go from knowing nothing about adding music into their lessons to watching their eyes sparkle as they dive in and try something they never thought they could. I see students get excited about music that they previously thought was boring….They love finding the ‘fun’ in a classical piece of music.”

Much has changed within CPS and across the national educational landscape over the past 17 years. Committed to serving CPS teachers and students in the most meaningful way possible, the MAP program has evolved to address the changing school environment over nearly two decades. To this end, the Negaunee Music Institute concluded the long-running MAP program at the end of the 2014/15 season, and in 2015/16, will pilot two new streams of programming supporting CPS teachers, administrators, and students. These exciting new programs–an in-school residency and an integrative curriculum development program–were established to meet the needs of the changing landscape of Chicago Public Schools, and to better address neighborhoods’ and schools’ varying levels of access to arts and music resources. These two new programming streams not only provide teachers with resources that meet the needs of their student population, but also support the successful implementation of the CPS Arts Education Plan by helping schools build thriving arts programs that will impact students for years to come.

The future of the CSO’s relationship with Chicago Public Schools and its teacher and student communities would not be possible without the success of the MAP program. In the 17 years since the founding of MAP, more than 220 teachers from 46 schools have engaged in the program, impacting the lives of approximately 17,000 students across Chicago. Because MAP has focused on teacher training as much as student engagement, MAP teachers will impact the lives of innumerable students throughout their careers, utilizing their skills long after their participation in MAP is complete.

The CSO and the Negaunee Music Institute celebrate all who have contributed to making the MAP program successful!

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series, which explores one of the 2014/15 season’s inspirational teacher workshops held at Symphony Center!