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In a strong commitment to help low-income and minority orchestra musicians, the Evanston Symphony Orchestra and District 65 are teaming up to present a free Young Persons’ concert at 7 p.m. April 12 at Evanston Township High School.

At the concert, 150 middle school orchestra students will play alongside ESO musicians on the final piece of the concert, “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Also on the program is Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” narrated by Henry Fogel, dean of Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University; as well as the “Theme from Star Wars” and “Mambo” from “West Side Story.”

“I am thrilled by the opportunity to have our students work with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra,” said Christine Huber, Director of the Orchestra Program at Nichols, Dewey, Lincoln and Washington schools. “I feel strongly that this is an important step toward decreasing the attrition of low-income and minority music students from middle school to high school. It will provide our students with a taste of what they are capable of early on in their instrumental music experience.”

Ms. Huber noted that, in conjunction with the Evanston Symphony, surveys are being drafted to better understand the attrition issue and “enable us to devise solutions that make sense.”

“Providing equitable access and experiences in music education will improve outcomes for all students, including low-income and minority students who are often not given an equitable opportunity,” she said.

Ms. Huber said that several studies – including one led by Prof. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University – demonstrate the benefits of exposure to music from an early age. “Children who study music develop better fine motor skills, solve problems faster and more creatively in both academic and social settings, and have higher levels of executive functioning and enhanced memory skills,” Ms. Huber said.

“As Evanston continues discussions of how to close the achievement gap, music and music education need to play a prominent role. I am enthusiastic about the prospect of launching this program in our schools and look forward to working with the ESO to bring the opportunity to our students.”

In addition, the ESO is offering to print “tweet-length” messages of up to 140 characters in the concert program for a donation of $25 or more to help provide free instruments to low-income and District 65 minority students.

For more information on the concert or to make a donation, go to evanston symphony.org.