WINSTON-SALEM, NC (September 30, 2020)– The Winston-Salem Symphony continues to show its commitment to music education during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering online music rehearsals and classes to students in the Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestras program and Piedmont Learning Academy for Youth (P.L.A.Y.) Music.

“Now more than ever, offering music to our youth must be an imperative part of education,” said Karen Ní Bhroin, Winston-Salem Symphony Assistant Conductor. “Music has the power to heal and as students and parents’ lives are turned upside down during this pandemic, we’re hoping to give solace back through music. At the Winston-Salem Symphony, we are thrilled to be offering all our Youth Orchestras’ programs online this fall. Of course, we had hoped and planned for an in-person experience, but putting the students’ safety first, we’ve developed and designed programs across our orchestras that will offer more, musically and educationally, than they have been able to offer in person in the past. 

The Youth Orchestras Program, consisting of four orchestras (two string and two full) serving K-12th grade students across the triad, will meet once a week online throughout the fall semester. The younger students will participate in weekly Zoom rehearsals and will focus on learning solos, scales, and music that helps develop note reading and string technique. Students involved in the full orchestra ensembles will have the opportunity to engage in the history, theory, background, and story of music, while receiving expert advice and training from Winston-Salem Symphony musicians and masterclasses from musicians around the world. They will be participating practically, contributing to musical discussions, and learning how to voice their musical thoughts.

“I’m so excited to see the trajectory of these students and their development throughout the programs,” Ní Bhroin continues. “I think this is something that we will be building into our future plans in the years to come.” 

The Winston-Salem Symphony’s youngest musicians in the El Sistema-inspired violin program, P.L.A.Y. Music, also will attend weekly online music classes this fall. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the P.L.A.Y. Music program served over 300 students from four elementary schools in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district. Three schools offered the program after school, and one held the program during the school day serving all kindergarten and first grade students.

“At first, we were unsure whether P.L.A.Y. Music should continue since we would have to move all classes online,” said Rachel Watson, Winston-Salem Symphony Education Director. “I know that online learning can be very stressful for young students and their parents, and since they were already participating in online learning with school, we didn’t want to overwhelm them. However, the requests and feedback we received to continue P.L.A.Y. Music classes this fall were incredible. After hearing parents express how meaningful and valuable the P.L.A.Y. Music program is to their child and family, we made the decision to continue classes online.” 

During the fall semester, P.L.A.Y. Music students will attend classes online once a week for one hour. The younger students (K–second grades) will engage in music games and lessons with and without their violins, as well as social-emotional learning activities that promote self-confidence, responsibility, discipline, and teamwork. Students also will participate in daily story time in which their instructor reads a story to them at the end of each lesson. 

“Our program not only helps young students grow musically and socially-emotionally, but academically as well,” continues Watson. The older students (third–fifthgrades) will work to develop their note reading skills by using a combination of engaging method books and sheet music. Music theory and music composition also will be taught to the older students.

About the Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestras

The Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestras program is part of the Winston-Salem Symphony and includes about 160 student musicians. The Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestras are currently comprised of two full orchestras and two string orchestras for aspiring musicians in the first through twelfth grades: the Premiere Strings, led by Dr. Ryane Dunnagan and Rachel Watson, is a strings ensemble for young musicians; the Chamber Sinfonia, led by Dr. Ryane Dunnagan and Rachel Watson, is a strings-only orchestra for advanced level beginners; the Youth Philharmonic, led by Margaret Rehder, is a full orchestra for intermediate level students; and the Youth Symphony, led by Karen Ní Bhroin, is a full orchestra for advanced students. Both full orchestras consist of 50 to 75 members and perform several public concerts annually as well as occasional concerts for special audiences. For more information, visit 

About the Piedmont Learning Academy for Youth (P.L.A.Y.) Music

P.L.A.Y. Music, an El Sistema inspired violin program, places an emphasis on the teaching of the whole child: head, heart, and hands. The central focus of the curriculum is to instill in each student a thankfulness for their background and place in the world, an appreciation for those different than themselves, a motivation to work with others in a team, and to better themselves holistically through active contribution and participation in an ensemble. Additionally, the program strives to assist students to excel academically—particularly in the area of childhood literacy. For more information, visit

About the Winston-Salem Symphony

The Winston-Salem Symphony, one of the Southeast’s most highly regarded regional orchestras, will begin its 74th season in October 2020. The Symphony announced their 20/21 season in March 2020, but at the time was unaware how much the world would change. The Symphony has adapted, and is proud to announce a season reimagined, beginning with a fresh slate of concert offerings for the fall, most of which will be presented in a digital platform for live-streaming events, called Stage Pass. Stage Pass holders will have access to live-streamed concerts, interviews with musicians and other guests, and behind-the-scenes extras. The Symphony will kick off its fall season in October with the theme London Calling, which will featuremusic from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Anna Clyne’s Sound and Fury, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, “London.” The season continues in November with American Landscapes featuring Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, Dan Locklair’s In Memory, and Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without sparkling lights, presents under the tree, and the anticipation of gathering with friends and family. A Carolina Christmas: Unwrapped will plan to unwrap Christmas one carol at a time in late November, recorded live at The Ramkat. In honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the community wide BTHVN Rocks Winston-Salem collaboration, the Winston-Salem Symphony and the Moravian Music Foundation are coming together for this special performance in December. The Moravian Music Foundation has a rare first edition of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony in its archives; this concert will feature a string sextet arrangement of this beautiful work. Additionally, the Symphony will include the first Ignite Family Series, the fall 2020 Etherbound release, behind the scenes footage, and a series of music education videos about the composers, musicians, and pieces of music you love.

The Symphony is supported by Season Presenting Sponsors Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A. and Truist; Music Director Sponsor Mrs. Charles M. Howell; Symphony Unbound/Etherbound Presenting Sponsors Chris and Mike Morykwas; as well as generous funding from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and other dedicated sponsors. For more information, visit

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