While many of the large music institutions in San Francisco have exciting and dynamic outreach programs at the elementary school level, the high school demographic is often ignored. Understandably, teenagers are a notoriously indifferent and often difficult to engage. However, Mercury Soul has proved to be a huge success among high school students through its casual atmosphere and familiarity with EDM. Before each general audience show, Mercury Soul has a free show specifically for high school students earlier in the day. Our full education program consists of three parts: pre-show visits, the show itself, and followup visits:
Before the event itself, Mercury Soul staff make several visits to participating schools for presentations to various departments. For example, architecture students learns about Mercury Soul’s unique use of space, and the theater production department learns about the complex production techniques Mercury Soul uses to guide its audience from classical to EDM and back. Teachers are given teaching materials and essay prompts that integrate into their curriculum, with the goal of getting students to learn about the musical styles presented as well as to think critically about how we listen to and present music in the 21st century.
The high school shows occur in the afternoon, followed by a break and reset, with the evening show later in the night. While the high school show is similar to the evening performance, it features several sets showcasing high school performers chosen by Mercury Soul to perform. The 2015 show included a taiko ensemble, a violin soloist, and a dance troop. This participatory element is a highly effective way to deepen the educational experience not only for the students involved, but also for their peers who see them perform.
Following the show, Mercury Soul staff visits the schools again to get students’ feedback and to see how they answered the assigned prompts. The thoughts of the next generation are very valuable to us and this program is opening their eyes to alternative ways to present classical music as they progress through their studies to become the future of music.