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SLO Symphony encourages musical education for kids and adults

SLO Symphony hosted Pops-by-the-Sea in Avila Beach in September.
Avery Elowitt
SLO Symphony hosted Pops-by-the-Sea in Avila Beach in September.

The San Luis Obispo Symphony has been performing classical music on the Central Coast since the 1950's — and now, they’re looking to involve local youth in classical music.

One of the symphony's biggest draws is Pops-by-the-Sea, a seaside concert with an expansive range of music, from the graceful composition of Swan Lake to energetic hoedowns.

“Pops by the Sea has been a huge part of this community for years," said Tess Duffy, Marketing and Communications Manager at the SLO Symphony. "So we were a little bit nervous bringing it back, especially after COVID. We really wanted to make sure we were doing it justice, and I think we really did.”

Duffy said with many of the symphony's musicians working in other fields like medicine or education, Pops-by-the-Sea highlights the community's musical talent.

“Pops-by-the-Sea is a way to showcase our musicians, and showcase classical music, and what we bring to this community in a way that is more accessible to families, to younger people, and to people who normally wouldn't come to our performances at the Performing Arts Center," Duffy said.

Outside of Pops-by-the-Sea, the SLO Symphony looks to involve young people in their youth program.

Kris King
A view of the SLO Symphony's audience from onstage.

Education manager Thomas Grandoli said the Youth Symphony’s goal is to get instruments in as many kids’ hands as possible.

“Music, when I was in school, provided a safe haven and sort of an outlet for a lot of difficult experiences. I think that particularly the programs that I work with, our mission is to get these children who might not otherwise have access to private lessons or might not be able to afford an instrument," he said.

According to Grandoli, the program features three levels: the introductory strings class called "Preparatory Strings," the intermediate class called "Academy Strings" and "Concert Orchestra" at the highest level.

But young classical musicians can aspire to even more, Grandoli said.

“A lot of our alumni from the Youth Symphony end up in the SLO Symphony," he said.

The organization also hosts an Instrument Petting Zoo, where both kids and adults can sample instruments they may have never even touched before. Grandoli himself found his passion for the saxophone through this event.

“We give students a chance to try instruments that they've never tried before. The main goal is to get as many kids interested in participating in music as possible and to make it as accessible as possible to the community.”

Upcoming events include the Symphony’s first concert of the season on October 8, followed by the Youth Symphony’s concert on October 24. The next Pops event, “Come Together,” will take place in December at the Performing Arts Center.

Avery Elowitt is an intern at KCBX News. She is studying Journalism with a minor in Media Arts, Society, and Technology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She worked as a reporter for KCPR and Mustang News.