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Amherst CSD Elementary Principals Honored for Link Up Program

Dan Lews   Mary Lavin   Julie Flanagan

Every other spring since 2011, Amherst elementary school students have been partnering with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in a unique collaborative concert called Link Up. The school district was among the first in the country to take advantage of the program during the 2010-11 school year. Students in grades 3-5 prepare all year in music class to learn the recorder and vocal selections to perform with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from their seats in a concert at Kleinhan’s Music Hall.


In honor of their continuous support to the program, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will honor Smallwood Principal Daniel Lewis, Windermere Early Childhood Principal Mary Lavin and Windermere Intermediate Principal Julie Flanagan with the BPO Leadership in Music Education Award. They were honored at the May 11 Celebration of Music Education at Kleinhan’s Music Hall.


Offered every other year, the Link Up program was developed by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Julie Furlong, a music teacher at Smallwood Drive and lead teacher for the Link Up collaborative concert, received training through Carnegie Hall on the program, and coordinates the interactive concert with the BPO involving over 600 students biannually.

This year’s concert in February was the fifth Link Up concert Amherst students were part of; joining 110 school districts nationally and internationally that work hand in hand with partner orchestras. 


“This program is an incredible opportunity to engage our students and teachers in musical learning and exploration,” said Mr. Lewis, principal at Smallwood Drive. “During the culminating event where students from both elementary schools play alongside the BPO at an evening designed just for them is so incredible to watch. The excitement, energy and the smiles on each child's face sums up the experience perfectly and helps lay the foundation for a lifetime of arts appreciation.”


“It is a special night not only for the students, but for the parents and families as well,” said Ms. Flanagan, Windermere Boulevard intermediate principal.


“Now that we've been involved the program for a number of years, the students who participated in the program as elementary students now have the opportunity to experience the program from the performance perspective, leading and teaching the younger students,” said Justin T. Pomietlarz, director of choral activities at Amherst Central High School. Typically, the Amherst Central High School Sweet Sixteens and the Varsity Singers would be the lead choir, but due to a scheduling conflict with the Operetta the groups could not participate in February.


This year's Link Up repertoire included:

  • "Come to Play" by Thomas Cabaniss (Link Up's composer in residence)
  • "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss
  • "Nocturne" from A Midsummer Night's Dreamby Felix Mendelssohn
  • "Away I Fly" by Thomas Cabaniss
  • "Toreador" from Carmen by Georges Bizet
  • "Cidade Maravilhosa" by Andre Filho
  • "Symphony No. 5" by Beethoven
  • "Overture to the Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart
  • "The Can-Can" by Jaques Offenbach

“Over the past nine years, the musicians from the Buffalo Philharmonic have graciously shared their talent and knowledge with hundreds of children. Our elementary students have been able to listen, learn and play alongside these amazing professionals,” said Ms. Lavin, Windermere Boulevard early childhood principal. “Watching our elementary students grow their own passion and appreciation for music has been incredibly rewarding. We are so thankful that our Amherst students have had this enriching musical educational experience.”


"Our students study the Link Up orchestral pieces in depth, learning the history and meaning of each piece, information about the composer, as well as the melodies through singing and playing instruments,” said Julie Furlong.


All students in grades 3-5 receive a Link Up book and online materials free of charge from the Weill Music Institute through Carnegie Hall. The students in music classes taught by Mrs. Furlong, Ada Wolfanger and Patricia Hills learn all of the songs in general music and chorus classes, but different grade levels learn different songs in more in-depth ways. For example, fifth-graders learned the "Blue Danube" to perform at their winter concerts and on recorders in both buildings, whereas third-graders only learned the melody of that piece and focused more on Mendelssohn's "Nocturne".


“Link Up with the BPO is a unique experience that motivates our young musicians to continue to learn and make music," said Ms. Furlong.