San Antonio Symphony receives $17,500 grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Symphony announced it will participate in research study, grant will cover cost of schools participating

Last year's production involving Children’s Ballet of San Antonio and narrator Miss Anastasia of The Twig Book Shop. Image by (David Meriwether, ©2019 DMeriwether)

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Symphony announced Tuesday that it received a $17,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to continue virtually a first-of-its-kind program that incorporates Shakespeare into the classroom.

The grant for the symphony will allow organizers and performers to continue performances in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the grant documentation, the symphony will expand its literacy project that introduces elementary school-aged children to William Shakespeare through music performances of composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The Young People’s Concerts: A Midsummer Night’s Dream Collaborative Program will include a partnership with QWILL Media and Education, Inc. and will feature a virtual field trip experience due to the impact of COVID-19, according to the grant documents.

In the QWILL program (Quality Writing Inspires Lifelong Learning), students study a children’s version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and incorporate themes into their assignments. At the end of the semester, the students will be able to see the symphony and ballet performance based on the classic.

The symphony said in a statement that it is planning its fourth year of the program which uses the show as a vehicle for teaching students writing and language skills so that they can become master communicators and scholars of tomorrow.

In a statement, Jeremey Brimhall, education director for the San Antonio Symphony, said the program was a semester-long initiative utilizing music and language arts to impact learning.

“The first-of-its-kind, cross-curricular program brings together an innovative semester-long Language Arts application scaffolded around a children’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic and a directly-related set of culminating concerts,” Brimhall said.

National Endowment of the Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter said the awards symbolize the power of art in the face of a national health crisis.

“These awards demonstrate the resilience of the arts in America, showcasing not only the creativity of their arts projects but the organizations’ agility in the face of a national health crisis,” Carter said.

Executive Director of the San Antonio Symphony Corey Cowart said the grant is a testament not only to art produced in San Antonio but to organizations that provide opportunities for engagement through art during a trying time for the country.

“We celebrate organizations like the San Antonio Symphony for providing opportunities for learning and engagement through the arts in these times.” “This grant from the NEA demonstrates the value of music and music education the San Antonio Symphony delivers to our community,” Cowart said. “It also signifies how the quality of our programs here in San Antonio are recognized nationally. We are incredibly grateful for continued investment during these unprecedented times.”

The online curriculum uses Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a vehicle for teaching students writing and language skills so that they can become master communicators and scholars of tomorrow.

According to the symphony, the program has been translated into Spanish and will be presented in a Spanish/English bilingual format.

Additionally, the symphony reported that it will participate in a nationally-recognized education study this year, studying the proposed relationship between student participation in the collaborative program, enhanced academic outcomes and measurable impacts on social-emotional learning attributes.

The symphony said in a statement that Angela Watson of the Watson Research and Evaluation Group will conduct the research and that the NEA grant funding will cover the cost of the QWILL program and related teacher professional development this season for schools that elect to participate in the research study.

For more information on this National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, click here.

Collaborative partners for the 2020-2021 season and academic year will include QWILL Media and Education, Inc., Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, and area schools.

About the Author:

Jakob Rodriguez is a digital journalist at KSAT 12. He's a graduate of Texas State University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The University Star.