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Spotlight on Liz Wu and Sound Discoveries School Residency


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The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra launched its new Sound Discoveries School Residency program in the fall, and since then, with the dedication of teaching artist Liz Wu, students at Hays-Porter Elementary School in the West End have been honing essential 21st-century skills like creativity, collaboration and critical thinking through musical instruction.

The key to the success of the residency program is the CSO teaching artist who develops and facilitates a program unique to each school’s expressed needs. Ms. Wu, a professional musician and children’s book author, spearheaded the pilot program at Hays-Porter this year with three classes (10 students each) from second, third and fourth grade.

“Most of the students in this program had no previous experience with music instruction before this class. In a very short time, they have learned rhythmic notation, made their own instruments (shakers and rain sticks), and have learned to apply mathematical principles to music and vice versa,” said Ms. Wu. “I have also seen them come into their own, exploring with sound, improvising with rhythm, and engaging musically with one another.”

A graduate of the School for Creative and Performing Arts and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (her degree is in Jazz Performance), Ms. Wu experienced formative performances including symphony, ballet, Wynton Marsalis and The Shaolin Monks that gave her a strong foundation in the arts and widened her horizons. “This helped develop a strong sense of curiosity, adventure and wonder—which no doubt has fueled my passion for creativity,” she said. Today, she continues to play and teach professionally. “I feel very grateful to be able to make a living sharing what I love.”

Ms. Wu’s lessons with her students vary day to day, developing basic music skills like rhythm and note-reading with fun games to reinforce the material. Like any teaching position, the residency is filled with joys and difficulties. “The biggest challenges are always time and resources,” she said.

The payoff comes by watching the students’ take delight in learning. “When a student sings a rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ before Christmas break and changes the words to ‘I will miss Ms. Liz,’ it is incredibly touching and better than any gift that can be bought in a store. Also, when a student, unprompted, says that his violin teacher asked how he knew how to read notes when he first began lessons, and told her that he learned them in class, you know there is an impact. There is no greater satisfaction as a teacher than knowing that something you have shared has value in a student’s life—especially if they can immediately implement that knowledge.”

Studies demonstrate again and again that music and the arts have the power to transform education and nurture the development of 21st-century skills well beyond the practice room. The CSO’s Sound Discoveries program and Ms. Wu’s work at Hays- Porter demonstrate the power of music to ignite young minds and inspire creativity and learning in kids. “I believe it is highly important that all children have access and exposure to music, and am so glad that Sound Discoveries is available to the students of Hays-Porter,” said Ms. Wu. She added, “This is an incredible opportunity for the students, and something that is uniquely available to them.”