Link Up Program Connects Howe Avenue Student Musicians with Pros
Children’s voices mingled with the soprano stylings of local opera singer Carrie Hennessey and rang out across the Howe Avenue Elementary gym:
As participants in the Link Up program, a national effort spearheaded by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, students at the school learned several classical music pieces, including “Carmina Burana.”
“The kids sang in Latin, which is very exciting for them,” said teacher Gayle Winney. “The kids who are Spanish-speaking read right through that.”
Winney works with a diverse student population at Howe Avenue, ranging from English learners and children living in poverty to refugees dealing with trauma. In many cases, she has found that music is a common language that creates connections.
“Music is something that everyone can participate in,” Winney said. “It’s really everybody coming together for the greater good.”
As part of the Link Up program, students in third through fifth grades study orchestral music and learn to play the recorder, exploring concepts like harmony and melody. Their year culminates with an interactive concert performed alongside a local orchestra — in this case, the Sacramento Philharmonic.
On a recent Thursday evening, prior to their performance with the full orchestra, families and fellow students at Howe Avenue were treated to a special preview when the students performed alongside a handful of local professionals: a guest conductor from American River College, a local pianist and Hennessey.
“We get to create bridges to different organizations,” Winney said.
Hennessey said she feels compelled as a musician to give back to the community. “These kids need it more than anybody. It’s really profoundly moving.”
Fourth grade student Amara Urdiales glowed with pride after playing her recorder alongside Hennessey. “It’s great to be able to hear a beautiful sound,” she said.
“I like that all of us are in harmony and we all make the same sound,” echoed fifth-grader David Walker. “Whenever I play with a professional, I’m like, ‘Maybe I could be like them!’”
For the visiting professional musicians, the partnership is an opportunity to build an appreciative audience for classical music.