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Where will tomorrow's audiences come from?

January 2, 2010 |  9:00 am

Orchestras and choirs used to reach out to children with concerts that were basically junior versions of the adult experience. A grandfatherly conductor would address a sea of little faces and then turn away to lead his ensemble in a variety of classics. The experience was meant to be edifying and educational. For many in the audience, however, it proved to be pretty boring.

Times have changed.

 In Los Angeles and other areas with active music outreach communities, groups large and small are trying to engage the young with programs that are lively, hands-on and more down-to-earth.

Eli Villanueva (pictured) and his colleagues are helping students put on "The Marriage of Figueroa," a whimsical blend of Mozart and California history, as part of an L.A. Opera program designed to teach the basics of opera and performance in a language children understand.

Companies like the Pacific Symphony in Orange County are sending artists into the schools and the community in hopes of forming prolonged, more personal connections with children, teachers and parents. The Los Angeles Master Chorale tries to bring out kids' inner voices -- literally -- with a songwriting workshop.

 "We've realized kids learn in different ways," says Jessica Balboni, director of the Orchestra Leadership Academy of the League of American Orchestras. They're not just "musical learners," she explains. They also respond visually, emotionally and physically. "You want to learn music, you make music. You make dance. You make art."

Click here to read more about L.A.'s musical outreach in my Sunday Arts & Books story.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Eli Villanueva with students at  Rockdale Elementary School in Eagle Rock. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times