By Roderick Wilbon, Sports Editor

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is trying new and innovative ways to appeal to a wider audience. There are many methods that they are trying and they are working. They are mixing with other entertainment forms such as sports, live musicians, events, and movies.

“Jurassic Park in Concert” is one such event that was held on November 3 through 5. Conducted by Gemma New, St. Louis Symphony’s Resident Conductor, with a big role by the Principal Timpani Shannon Wood. Universal Studios provided the film without the musical score. SLSO then plays every note from the score live as the film plays on the big screen at Powell Hall. Media could attend opening rehearsal and see how it was all put together. “This is my first time doing a full-length movie and it is very exciting to do,” said New. “We are excited for concert-goers for this event.”

SLSO partnered with the Saint Louis Blues earlier in the year for a musical contest to have performers provide the national anthem for the Blues. Then later putting together an Athletes of the Orchestra family concert. These events have brought a lot more attention to SLSO and what they are providing to the community. SLSO’s IN UNISON program is one of those that have been viewed as beneficial to the St. Louis region.

December 4, SLSO’s IN UNISON program has been awarded a $160,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund. IN UNISON’s mission is to increase diversity in all aspects of music by providing resources for African-Americans in the St. Louis area. Thanks to generous support from the Monsanto Fund, SLSO musicians are also able to visit partner churches and provide music during worship services.

The IN UNISON program, which launched in 1992, reaches more than 20,000 people annually and is involved with 40 predominantly African-American churches. Thanks to generous support from the Monsanto Fund, SLSO musicians can visit the churches and provide music during worship services. From the program’s beginning, the Monsanto Fund has helped provide scholarships for African-American students studying music at the college level.

“It’s exciting to see how IN UNISON continues to be an educational jewel for college music students who might otherwise not have access to participate in this unique arts program,” said Michelle Insco, Monsanto Fund program officer. “We are proud that our support of IN UNISON has served as a stepping stone for many young people within the St. Louis community who are pursuing musical careers.”

Octavia Sydnor, a former IN UNISON scholarship recipient and current IN UNISON Graduate Fellow, coordinates the SLSO’s Mentoring the Music: Peer to Peer program. As the program’s coordinator, the St. Louis native helps young people from diverse backgrounds gain access to music education and music career guidance. Sydnor is an accomplished violinist who has performed with many orchestras and ensembles. In 2016, Sydnor graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in violin performance. “My experience with IN UNISON has given me a very strong sense of community,” she said. “Thanks to IN UNISON I have been able to make a difference in the community I love.”

The IN UNISON program has its own chorus that performs twice each season at Powell Hall with the orchestra. The chorus will take the stage on December 14 for “A Gospel Christmas: A Soulful Celebration with Dianne Reeves.” Led by St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth, the performance will feature gospel and jazz music of the holiday season. “Lift Every Voice: Black History Month” is the second IN UNISON concert of the season at Powell Hall. Guest vocalist Oleta Adams will join the chorus for the event on February 23, 2018.

The IN UNISON Chorus will also perform a free “Community Concert” at Friendly Temple Church on April 29, 2018. The concert will spotlight various IN UNISON initiatives and include performances by members of Mentoring the Music: Peer to Peer program. St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director David Robertson will be the guest conductor.

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