The CSO’s Moment for Music

The pandemic provides an opportunity for community work at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Chris Gaitten
CSO musicians at the Ohio Hispanic Coalition in November

While the pain of this cursed year has been felt broadly across the arts world, it comes with an unexpected silver lining for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. 

As pandemic cancellations climbed, CSO musicians were free to increase their childhood educational work, a recently prioritized part of the mission, says executive director Denise Rehg. In January 2020, the group passed a new strategic plan heavily focused on community service, and one of the goals is to double the number of kids reached annually, from 25,000 to 50,000, in the next three years. Without many major concerts to play, the CSO has launched the Kids Korner and Symphonic Teens websites, created a 13-week curriculum for all third graders in Columbus City Schools, filmed more than 100 educational videos and held small outreach concerts. 

The CSO has also ramped up the Mindful Music Moments program, which went from seven Central Ohio schools in 2019 to 28 as of November, plus six preschools (and the Vorys law firm). Each morning, students are given a topic to contemplate while listening to a brief recording of classical music, providing stress relief and an introduction to the genre. They learn to be still and use their imaginations, and schools have reported fewer disciplinary office visits, says Stacy Sims. Her nonprofit, A Mindful Moment, launched the program in Cincinnati before partnering with symphonies in Columbus, Cleveland and beyond. 

Rehg says it provides a quiet, thoughtful period for students at a time when the world has gotten noisier and more complicated. “I really do think that, in many, many respects, Mindful Music Moments is one of the best demonstrations of what music does for any of us.”