The seats at the Anniston Performing Arts Center weren’t as full as planned for Thursday morning’s Alabama Symphony Orchestra concert for sixth-graders, presented by the Knox Concert Series.
Organizers had been expecting 600 area students to attend, but Talladega City Schools couldn’t make it because of a delayed school start due to flood warnings. The students from Alexandria didn’t make it because their buses got stuck.
But sixth-graders from Ohatchee, Saks and Weaver, as well as members of the Anniston High School band, were there for an educational concert celebrating Black History Month.
After 74 years, Knox is ending its regular concert series in May but plans to refocus on presenting educational programs for area students — such as the concert at Anniston High.
Knox Concerts has long sponsored free performances of “The Nutcracker” ballet for area third-graders, and last year helped with logistics for the Shakespeare Project’s free performance of “Macbeth” for area high-school students.
“Hopefully we can continue to do that,” said Knox vice chairman Brenda Shaw. “It fits nicely in our expanded mission of educational outreach — not just with the musical arts, but with the performing arts.”
Noah Simmons, 11, a sixth-grader at Ohatchee, was one of the first students to arrive for Thursday’s concert. He said he had never been to a symphony concert before. “I can’t wait to hear it. I’m going to be in band next year.” (He wants to play either trumpet or percussion.)
Shyian Duke, 11, also from Ohatchee, said she had been to a concert before. “It was some country singer. I was about 2.”
Ace Weathington, 11, of Ohatchee had dressed up for the concert in a tie. “I like classical music,” he said. “I think it sounds very nice. I do not play, but if I did it would be the drums.”
In the days leading up to the concert, Knox sent volunteers into classrooms to teach the students about what they would see and hear.
“It’s an introduction to the symphony, the instruments, the placement of them, what the conductor does, when to clap, when to not,” Shaw said.
The Black History Month program began with music by Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who lived in the late 1700s and is considered the first composer of African ancestry.
Also on the program:
• The first movement of Antonin Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, composed in 1893, which makes use of African American and Native American folk melodies.
• “Amen!” a 2017 work by Carlos Simon inspired by his experiences growing up in a Pentecostal church.
• A tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington.
That last piece seemed to be the crowd favorite.
“I liked the sound and the beat,” said Kaleb Moore, 11, a sixth-grader at Saks. He thinks he’ll try out for band next year. He might like to learn to play the flute.
Also in the audience were members of the Anniston High School band. Andrew Vincent, 17, is a percussionist. He said his favorite parts of the concert were the violins and the timpani.
RaShaud Drake, 15, plays alto sax with the band. He had never been to a symphony concert before and said it was “eye-opening,” particularly for kids who now might have discovered an interest in making music.