This time, the students also got to play.
Through a partnership between TSO and Carnegie Hall's "Link Up" program, elementary students from Tupelo, Lee County, Pontotoc City and Pontotoc County school districts not only listened to the orchestra, but also played recorders or sang along.
Also joining the performance was famous violinist Alexander Markov, the Itawamba Community College drumline and sixth- to 12th-grade students in Tupelo schools' string classes.
"I felt proud at first because I was playing with the orchestra for the first time," said Travis Browning, 9, a fourth-grader at North Pontotoc Elementary with a recorder tucked under his arm. "Then it felt awesome because I was playing with the orchestra."
The event took almost a year to plan, starting with a trip to Carnegie Hall last May by TSO conductor Steven Byess to observe one of their "Link Up" programs.
The trip was sparked by past conversations about the program between the TSO, Carnegie Hall and the Mississippi Arts Commission. A grant from the MAC purchased recorders for the students, and Carnegie Hall and the Weill Music Institute paid for workbooks and copies of music for each of them. Music teachers have been preparing students for the performance throughout the year.
Lynne Mize, the music teacher at Joyner Elementary and vice president/education outreach for TSO's board of directors, helped coordinate the education aspect.
She said it was a "performance-based task" for the students, who also had to learn to read music. It provided a chance for everyone to participate, she said.
"One of the goals for the Tupelo symphony is for every child to experience a live orchestra," Mize said. "What makes this program so remarkable is that it equalizes the playing field and gives an opportunity for all students."
The crowd favorite was Markov, an internationally celebrated violinist who broke out his famous electric violin that sounds like an electric guitar. The performance drew loud applause.
"I liked the rock violinist," said Kristyn Wright, 10, a fourth-grader at North Pontotoc Elementary.
The orchestra held two performances on Friday to allow a larger number of students to attend. Along with the hour-long presentation was a lesson on such topics as steady beat, rhythmic tricks, ostinato, syncopation, intensity and rhythmic layers.
"The most special part was seeing how the children were engaged and excited, and they never took their attention away," said TSO President and Executive Director Margaret Anne Murphey. "It is a total success."
THE TUPELO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA will perform with Markov tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Link Centre. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students.