When Urbana High School sophomore Gabriella Papillo was brainstorming projects to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, she decided to raise awareness for something she loved: participation in orchestra. Papillo herself plays the cello. “I’ve been in orchestra since sixth grade,” she said, “(and) I’ve noticed a lot of kids quitting during middle school. People don’t understand the importance of (band and orchestra.)”
Papillo wanted to create and present a fun program to give third through fifth graders more information about the benefits of being in an orchestra. She spoke with band instructors at Urbana High School, Urbana Middle School, and Windsor Knolls Middle School about her idea, and received enthusiastic support.
“Orchestra provides such a non-judgmental social community,” said Papillo, “and (is connected to high) grades and test scores as well as (strong) memory. (Music is used) for Alzheimer’s treatment!”
Papillo wanted to transfer her own excitement for orchestra to the children who would soon enter middle school. She named her program Music Matters: The Importance and Benefit of Continuing Orchestra.”
In May 2019, Papillo pulled together a core team to help her plan the event. She and her team planned stations through which children could rotate. “I wanted the stations to be fun, so we came up with some games,” she said.
Eight months later, on Jan. 12, Papillo, her team and additional volunteers held two sessions in the Urbana High School auditorium; each session lasted two hours. Papillo invited primarily orchestra students from the area’s elementary schools: Green Valley, Kemptown, Urbana and Centerville. The three band directors were on hand to answer questions for parents and students.
One station included a video of interviews with Urbana Middle School Orchestra members as well as one of the Urbana High School Chamber Orchestra rehearsing. There was also musical trivia, a game of hangman and a demonstration of how to hold a bow and keep a steady hand. Papillo explained, “You hold a pencil and put a poker chip on top and hold it steady.”
Papillo thinks the program will help with retention. “A few students were on the fence about orchestra the next year, but (after the program, they) were excited about staying in orchestra next year. One kid was raving about the viola all day!”
Petr Skopek, director of band and orchestra at Windsor Knolls Middle School, said the workshop was very well thought-out. “Gabriella did a very nice job with the event, and her passion for music and getting young students involved with orchestra was clearly visible. … I thought all the kids had a lot of fun and were fully engaged in all the different modules of the workshop. They also had many wonderful questions for the panel and showed genuine interest and enthusiasm for playing an instrument and being part of an orchestra.”
Papillo noted, “A lot of feedback from the parents was that the kids learned a lot, (the program) was run well, and they hope we’ll do it again.” She would like to see the event held on a more convenient day for students, or in the form of a field trip. “I hope that some aspects of the workshop could live on.”