In the fall of 2015, the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra launched two exciting new partnership programs for Chicago Public Schools: an in-school residency program and a teacher professional development community. On this page, you will find more information about the first year of the residency program at Sawyer Elementary School. To learn more about the residency program on Sounds & Stories, please click here.

On November 3, 2015, the CSO-Ignite program began it’s first of ten classroom visits at Sawyer Elementary School in the Gage Park neighborhood, a large school with 1,800 students and six full-time arts educators (visual art and drama), but no music teacher. In addition to teaching artist visits, the residency also consisted of several in-school performances, a field trip to Orchestra Hall to see a CSO School concert of the school’s choice, and an “informance,” where students would showcase what they’ve learned for their classmates and family members.

Two CSO teaching artists were present at the school, together reaching all seven of Sawyer’s third grade classrooms. Curriculum for the residency was developed over two intensive planning sessions in collaboration with the school’s planning team—consisting of an Assistant Principal, all third grade teachers and Sawyer’s visual arts teacher—and CSO staff and teaching artists. The curriculum was designed to use musical instruction to address student learning needs in language arts skills, while making strong connections with the CSO’s School Concert theme of “Celebrations.”

The curriculum also tied closely to the third grade unit of World Cultures, exploring music fundamentals and concepts through the lens of two books the students would be reading: Grandma’s Records and The Keeping Quilt.

Each classroom session included foundational instruction in music, exploring notation, composition, melody, dynamics, tempo, and theme and variation. Teaching artists also dedicated time each lesson for students to play classroom instruments and active listening segments focusing on repertoire from Surprise Party, the CSO School Concert that Sawyer students would attend in November.

Aside from the CSO School Concert, a highlight of the unit occurred when teaching artists brought in a portable record player, giving students a lesson about how record players produce sound and the different sizes of vinyl records.

“Mr. Avo brought a record player into our classrooms and we got to see how a record player works. I learned that when the needle hits the record it starts playing the song because it picks up the vibrations.” – 3rd Grade student, Sawyer Elementary School

The final project for the residency was inspired by The Keeping Quilt, which tasked the students with composing a square for their classroom’s “Sound Quilt.” Each classroom performed their Sound Quilt as part of a culminating event in February, which was attended by families and community members.

Teacher and Student Testimonials

[Photo of student quote “What I learned from CSO”] – “I learned that music is very important because a lot of things are music and I can hear them if I listen closely. Without music the world would be dull. It inspired me to take music classes from piano. I chose piano because it sounds beautiful. Now I love music and I love taking piano classes.” – Inchantli, Sawyer Elementary

“The program made my students feel successful. They were more on-task and the experience boosted their self-confidence.” – 3rd Grade Teacher

“The students felt very lucky when the teaching artist came into the classroom. When the program ended, they kept asking when he would come back!” – 3rd Grade Teacher