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Music teachers will get a chance to shine in concert with St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

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Andrea Henderson
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St. Louis Public Radio
Rosalind Rogers teaches orchestra students at Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis how to play the nursery rhyme "Hot Cross Buns." Rogers will play with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Friday in its Extra Credit concert. The concert allows music educators in Missouri, Illinois and other states to showcase their talents to students and the community.

Rosalind Rogers is a popular teacher at Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis. Students greet her daily with hugs and high-fives, while others often beg to eat lunch with her. Many students are drawn to her because she makes learning about classical music fun.

She began working at Lincoln in 2017 and started its orchestra the next year. She teaches music to 75 students and to about 60 children during her lunch hour “Cafe Ensembles.” The ensemble is primarily for students who want to learn how to play an instrument but cannot take her class or for those who need extra practice.

That same passion Rogers has for her students' academic and aspiring musical careers is the exact dedication she brings to the violin. That helped land her an opportunity to play with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on Friday in its free Extra Credit concert. Rogers is one of 102 educators who will showcase their musical talents to students and the community at Powell Hall.

The concert allows Lincoln students to see that there is space in an orchestra for Black people to perform and make a good living, said Rogers, who has been playing the violin since age 6.

“They can physically place themselves in a concert hall, [where] some of them have not been,” said Rogers, 30. “And then when they see their teacher onstage, they can now place themselves onstage, because hopefully, their teacher is telling them that they can be here too.”

Music educators from across the nation will share the stage with 49 members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The music teachers and orchestra members will rotate between musical selections to allow each musician a chance to play. Norman Huynh, who conducts the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, will conduct the concert. The audience will hear “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from the Planets by Gustav Holst, “Largo” from Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” by Antonín Dvořák and selections from “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky and orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

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Dilip Vishwanat
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St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Music teachers perform at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Extra Credit concert in 2019.

The Extra Credit concert series aims to teach students the importance of pursuing music education and to show them possible career opportunities in symphony orchestras, said Maureen Byrne, the orchestra’s associate vice president of education and community partnerships.

“We hope that they stick with their teachers and stay firmly entrenched in their school music program, all the way through high school, not to become a professional musician but because of all the things that being part of that school music education program can provide to them,” Byrne said.

She said the concert also reinvigorates the teachers, reminds them of their artistic abilities and gives them a tool to demonstrate preparation and discipline to their students.

Discipline and preparation helped guide Rogers throughout her musical career. She faced challenges, because playing the violin was culturally unfamiliar for her family and they did not understand what she needed to be a successful violinist. As a child in Kansas City, she did not see many professional Black violinists.

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Andrea Henderson
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Rosalind Rogers practices “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from the Planets by Gustav Holst at Lincoln Middle School. She will play the song Friday with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for its Extra Credit concert.

However, Rogers is determined to change that narrative by directing the orchestra at a predominantly Black middle school, facilitating classes through her nonprofit the Inner Ear Youth Orchestra and playing in the Edwardsville Symphony.

By performing at the concert, Rogers, whom the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis named art educator of the year, wants to show her students what's possible if they choose to continue pursuing their passion.

“I want them to walk away in gratitude at some point, that the person that they get to see every day, they've been given opportunities like this because of the work you see them doing every day,” Rogers said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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