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Take Your Student to Meany

November 17, 2023

Even the greatest musicians and composers had to start somewhere.

Mozart, Beethoven and YoYo Ma all received their earliest music education from their own fathers. But not everyone is so lucky to have such talented parents. 

In Seattle, a new generation of budding musicians and music-lovers are benefiting from the instruction, inspiration and mentorship of dedicated musicians and educators such as the members of the Seattle Music Teachers Association (SMTA). 

As the presenting arts organization of a leading university, it only makes sense that Meany Center would offer support to students and teachers both on campus and in the wider community.

Meany has long offered discounted tickets to teachers, as well as two free tickets for youth under 18 with the purchase of an adult ticket to performances on our Piano and Chamber Series. However, it wasn’t until board member Olivia Lee noticed last season that there was a higher than usual number of music teachers and their students in the audience for pianist Daniil Trifanov’s performance that it clicked: Here was an untapped resource for building audiences, and it made sense to be proactive.

“I've been attending the Chamber or Piano Series as a subscriber for about five years now,” Olivia says, “and you know, every time I go to a performance, I think every seat here should be filled.”

She reached out to SMTA member Ryan Worswick to see if the organization might publicize Meany programming and promotions for students and teachers.

“I've also been going to those Meany shows for about five years,” Ryan says. “And I’ve certainly noticed there's an abundance of great seats. Since getting involved with SMTA it's always seemed like an obvious partnership because of how built-in the audiences are. The people we work with — the kids, let alone the adults that we work with — are ready-made to go and have a good time at those kinds of shows.”

Ryan took the idea to SMTA, “and it just went from there.” 

The organization made their first “official” visit in October, with members attending Isata Kanneh-Mason’s Meany debut, which also launched this season’s Piano Series.

One of the SMTA members who took advantage of free youth tickets was Karin McCullough. For her student, a young Black girl, the concert made a huge impact. She was inspired to see another young Black woman on stage. “It felt like she’d found her passion,” Karin noted.

SMTA member Peter Mack also attended Kanneh-Mason’s concert, and says he was shocked at how small the audience was for it compared to what he remembered from when he attended performances several years ago. 

“There weren't always full houses, but they were pretty sizable,” he recalls. “And this was not. One of the things I realized is that if we don't support the things that we value, they just won't go on forever.”

Karin McCullough’s student may or may not go on to follow in Isata Kanneh-Mason’s footsteps to the concert stage, but SMTA members share a common view that music and music education is a valuable endeavor regardless of whether it leads to a career as a professional musician — since in most cases, it doesn’t. Partnering with Meany Center to promote live performing arts to future generations complements their educational mission.

“Music is one of the great human projects,” Ryan comments. “And it is one of the few areas in life where you can be scared of something that’s not actually dangerous — it’s not like your job is on the line. You can get used to being scared and learn to push through. It’s a gentle and useful place to experiment with being a human and being brave and being creative and being all these things out loud in public. Music is something that lasts your whole life."