Mayor Lee R. Clancey

The Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra

Program Narrative

The Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra (the "Symphony") has a long and impressive history of commitment to music education. To expand the range of Symphony educational programming, the Cedar Rapids Symphony School (the "Symphony School") was organized in 1986. The Symphony Education Director, with one, full-time assistant, supervises the School of Music (a member of the National Guild of Community Schools for the Arts and mentor to schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, Huntsville, Alabama, Battle Creek, Michigan, and Sioux City, Iowa. The Symphony has received national recognition for its exemplary programming.

Educational Programs

The educational programs that the Symphony offers are designed to provide opportunities of the highest quality in music performance and music education to all students regardless of age, economic, cultural, or geographic factors which might otherwise limit access to the arts. The educational programs of greatest importance are those that are designed for at-risk children or uniquely appropriate to the needs of at-rick children. In every Symphony School program, teachers seek to encourage self-expression and problem solving, build discipline and cooperative skills, and improve listening skills. The Symphony School builds programs not only to provide music education but also to increase a sense of community and encourage good family relationships. To make educational opportunities available to everyone, a scholarship program is designed to be non-threatening and accessible.

Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarship students come from low-income homes and/or homes in which the parent/acting parent may have limited education. In determining the amount of scholarship need, the parent/acting parent is asked to evaluate how much they can really afford to pay for the program; no income statement is asked. Written interviews are accepted and telephone interviews are used for people who would be unable to complete a written application. Classroom teachers and principals can also recommend students.

The Symphony continues to present programs on a fee basis even though scholarships are readily available because even minimal financial commitment results in a greater commitment to a program. The Symphony has also experienced an outstanding relationship with the Cedar Rapids Community School district for many years. Under a formal agreement between the Symphony and the School District, education offices and teaching studios for the Symphony education division and the School of Music are housed at McKinley Middle School at minimal cost. The School District provides support personnel for the Third Grade string program and space for after school music programs in elementary attendance centers. The Symphony also cooperates with the School District to coordinate curriculum and implement programs. The Johnson School of the Arts, an elementary school within the Cedar Rapids Community School District, has participated in a unique Symphony program for the past five years. In an area where drugs and gangs are highly visible, where single parent or substitute parent families are in the majority, where income and education levels are the lowest in the city, and where the city’s highest minority population is located, the School District sought to reverse the negative influences within the neighborhood. Lessons are presented in the school, after school hours, to approximately 200 young people, latchkey children, children who lack adequate structure and support in the home environment, and children who have little success in the traditional classroom. Students can choose flute, piano, horn, or clarinet in addition to the strings.

Free Programs

Free programs offered by the Symphony are: Pied Piper Concerts, Third Grade String Enrichment, and Youth Concerts for Fourth Grade. Tuition-based programs with scholarships include Symphony Kids, After School Group Lessons, Discovery Chorus, and individual lessons.

New Programs

Two new programs are beginning this year in an ongoing effort to meet new needs as they arise. The first project is an early childhood education program at Grant Elementary School. Grant School serves children age 3 years through second grade who have been identified by social service agencies and School District personnel as being at-rick. The program integrates music into the full spectrum of the curriculum and will provide an opportunity to track reading skills and other skills when music is an integral part of the curriculum. The second new project provides a music program (instrumental lessons, youth orchestra rehearsals, ensemble rehearsals, recital performances, and other activities. These will take place during the seventeen early release days scheduled by the School District during the 1999-2000 school year. The program will have a significant impact upon latchkey children. The school district will provide space and transportation; the Symphony School will provide teachers, rehearsal supervisors and performance personnel. A potential program presently under consideration is working with the juvenile justice system in the America’s Promise violence prevention program launched by Mayor Lee Clancey.


Cedar Rapids provides outstanding support for the Symphony. During the tenure of Mayor Clancey, the Symphony has experienced great success and national recognition. The City Council annually grants hotel/motel tax revenue to the Symphony; support also comes from community foundations, corporations, private donors, the Symphony Guild, the NEA, and the Iowa Arts Council.


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