The Kamloops Symphony has wrapped up a successful mentorship program with the students at École Collines-d'or, the francophone school in the former Oak Hills Elementary.

Starting in the fall, KSO Music Director Dina Gilbert visited the school to work with the students, helping them to identify different composers by listening to excerpts of their music and introducing them to the role of the conductor. The program culminated with a visit on March 9 where Dina and seven KSO musicians visited the school. Following a fun introduction to each instrument and what it does, students were provided the opportunity to conduct the musicians.

The response from the students was very positive. “It inspired me to start listening to classical music,” said Jezzabel of the experience. One of her classmates, Gavin, said “It was wonderful to hear the harmonious sound that the instruments were able to produce together.” Daniel, who had an opportunity to try conducting the KSO musicians said "I enjoyed leading the orchestra. I did not know what to do at first, but Ms Gilbert held my arms to help me and then I was able to do it by myself. It was fun!" Makai, another student who bravely volunteered to conduct, said "It's really special to be in front of the musicians and to play the conductor. I liked doing it and I also liked to see others doing it. It was really funny."

The teachers at École Collines-d'or were also very impressed. Mme Séguin said, "This presentation is unique. Conductors rarely come to explain the basics of their work and their art. It is also very rare that it is a woman. This hands-on workshop allowed our elementary students to lead the orchestra, understand tempos, dynamics and registers. Ms. Gilbert has a very lively and passionate way of interacting with children. She knows how to communicate her love of music. The children had the opportunity to see and hear six different instruments. We have seen in the faces of children their joy to lead the orchestra, to make the musicians play faster or harder. I believe this visit will remain etched in the memory of many. Many thanks to all who made this visit possible."

School principal, Lise Bilodeau said “I think sometimes we forget that education also is art, and so we want to make sure we ground the children with all aspects of education, which is music and theatre and visual art and all that stuff. For us, that is really important.”

The KSO is hoping to expand this conducting mentorship project throughout the Kamloops Thompson School District for the 2018/19 school year.