Vermont Symphony Orchestra


VSO’s SymphonyKids education and community collaborations have always been an important part of our statewide mission.  In the 2023-2024 season we are proud to offer programming geared towards students of all ages, from preschool through college, as well as new offerings for adult learners. The SymphonyKids vision statement is, “To explore the delights of classical music with Vermont school children, and to inspire them with a lifelong enthusiasm for music through a variety of high-quality, educational, and FUN programs.”

For more information or to book a program, email Hannah Hansen, Education Coordinator or call (802) 864-5741 ext. 113.

Our educational programs are made possible in part by the The Albert F. and Hilda Woodruff Gollnick Fund, The Frank Hensel Memorial Fund, The Susie Learmonth Upper Valley SymphonyKids Fund, The Lois H. McClure Musicians-in-the-Schools Fund, the Kate Tamarkin Education Fund, the George M. Mergens Foundation and individual and business donors who support VSO’s educational work on a project-by-project basis.

We also thank the Doolittle Family Foundation for their generous support of the VSO’s education department for the 2023-2024 season.

2023-2024 Education Programs

July 2023

The Summer Festival Tour Musical Petting Zoo returns to South Pomfret, Grafton, Stowe, East Burke and Shelburne, providing young audiences with an opportunity to learn about and play with musical instruments.

December 2023 & February 2024

In partnership with Music-COMP, two student music compositions world premieres will take place, performed by the VSO: one with our Brass Quintet & Counterpoint tour in December 2023, and one at the Farmers’ Night concert in Montpelier in February 2024.

February 2024

With the success of electric violinist Tracy Silverman’s workshop with the U-32 Montpelier High School string students with the winter Winooski Jazz Festival, we are investigating a return in February 2024 with more electric string instrument workshops.

We’re partnering with the National Federation of the Blind of Vermont to host young, visually impaired individuals and their family members at a Jukebox performance in Waterbury, with touch-tour of the percussion instruments and conversation with the musicians prior to the concert. In addition, the Jukebox string musicians are hosting a training workshop in St. Johnsbury for young musicians who are part of Catamount Arts’ EPIC Music program.

March 2024

Rutland-area students will take part in Student Insiders and attend the VSO at the Paramount: The Hollywood Sound concert in March 2024, supported by individuals and business from the local community. More information and sign up link on the Student Insiders page.

May 2024

Our third MasterClef competition for young composers will take place on May 3, 2024 with composer Nico Muhly. Students workshop their own musical creations based on a melody drawn from Muhly’s VSO-commissioned piano concerto, drawn from 18th century hymn tunes by Justin Morgan.


The VSO partners with middle- and high-school students in Vermont communities each year for Young Composers, for a two-month workshop on composing for strings, brass and woodwinds. For this season, in partnership with composer Kyle Saulnier and Music-COMP,  a VSO woodwind quintet will work with Middlebury Union High School in 2024.

VSO’s three Musicians in Schools programs – brass, woodwinds, and strings joined by an actor who weaves together stories about music, science and math – continues visits to schools for grades K-6. Prices are $300 for 1 show in a day; $570 for 2 of the same show in a day; and $810 for 3 of the same show in a day. Contact VSO Education Coordinator Hannah Hansen at to book or ask about subsidies.



Adult Education

Our newest educational programs partner with Vermont Humanities and OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) for a series of in-person and remote presentations tied to VSO programming.

The first OLLI course takes place online on Sept. 26 with Andrew Crust and our cello and violin soloists, discussing repertoire from our season opening concert at the Flynn on Sept. 30.

The first Vermont Humanities presentation takes place in person on Oct. 13 at the Rutland Free Library, with curator/host Matt LaRocca and artist Julio Desmont in discussion about the October Jukebox concerts. The second presentation takes place in person Dec. 13 in Newport, featuring organist and choirmaster Mark Howe discussing the history of holiday music.

Each VSO at the Flynn Concert is preceded by a free hosted discussion with the conductor and guest artist(s).


2022-2023 Education Programs


MasterClef Competition  October 2022

For the second year, the VSO is sponsoring a competition for budding composers, arrangers, performers, producers, songwriters and musicians of all kinds, for Vermont students in grades 6-12.  Cash prizes will be awarded, and finalists are invited to Burlington for a masterclass and performance on Oct 28-29.

Click here for competition details, submission guidelines and more!


Musicians-in-Schools  September-June

The VSO’s SymphonyKids Music Education programs offer a wide array of options for in-school visits and field trips, especially geared towards students in grades K-6.

Our core music education program, the Lois H. McClure Musicians-in-the-Schools, includes three different ensembles that are available for in-school presentations. Concerts include demonstration of instruments, a wide sampling of repertoire, audience participation, and a certain amount of zany humor. These groups normally present three 45-minute shows a day, which can be in three different schools if they are close enough geographically.  The cost is $300 per performance, with discounts for multiple performances in a single day. Subsidies are available for schools with limited resources.

Click here to indicate interest with no formal commitment.  We will be back in touch with you directly to schedule a visit.


Young Composers  September-June 2022

Each year the VSO partners with Music-COMP and select public schools across the state to provide composition instruction and mentorship with professional Vermont composers.   Contact us if you’d like more information about bringing the Young Composers program to your school!



“The ongoing support, masterclasses, music composition, and opportunities our learners have engaged in [with the VSO] are priceless. These are once in a lifetime experiences for learners, and I am proud to support the importance of arts in education at our school.” -Principal Donna L. Cauley, Monument Elementary School


Student Insiders  March 2022

For middle school students, our Student Insiders program that invites students and chaperones to attend a VSO concert free of charge while they gain an inside perspective on the orchestra and the repertoire.

Participants and their families/teachers receive preparatory materials before the event, and they are invited to a special meet-and-greet with the performers before the concert.

This year’s Student Insiders concert on March 29 features the VSO performing live music to accompany seven documentary and animated films. This program is fully funded by generous community members.

Email us if your students would enjoy being VSO Student Insiders this year!

Electric Strings Workshop  February 2022

This February, the VSO is excited to collaborate with electric violinist Tracy Silverman, and we invite local string students to join us for an interactive workshop! Students will learn and practice extended techniques in a high-energy environment. This opportunity is especially well-suited to intermediate players and school/community ensembles.

Contact us if you’d like your student or group to participate!

Violin Masterclass  May 2022

In May, Bella Hristova will offer a masterclass for advanced violin students as part of her visit to Burlington to perform with the VSO. Teachers will nominate promising students to participate, and we’ll also invite school groups and community ensembles to join us in the audience.

Stay tuned for more information and contact us with questions or nominations.



Past Education Programs

Musical Chairs Series

During the 2021-2022 season, the VSO put together a series of educational programs for kids and families to access at home. Take a look!

Episode 1 – Strings

Click here to download the instructions to build your very own string instrument at home!

Click here for all 5 episodes!



Musical Petting Zoo


In addition to our traveling ensembles, we have a program called the Musical Petting Zoo. The “Zookeeper” brings a variety of orchestral instruments into the schools for a hands-on introduction to the VSO. After an explanation and demonstration of each instrument, the children get a chance to play on their own, under the supervision of “handlers.”

The Musical Petting Zoo also travels with our Summer Festival Tour.  Children can visit the Petting Zoo tent to try a variety of orchestral instruments before each concert and during intermission.

Check out this article on the Musical Petting Zoo reported by the Burlington Free Press on March 31, 2010.



Green Room Program


Another branch of VSO SymphonyKids is known as the Green Room Program. A group of middle and/or high school students is given free tickets to a VSO concert. The students receive materials about the performance in advance. Before the concert, the students and chaperones have a meal with musician “mentors,” who give them an inside perspective on the pieces and performers. They then get a backstage tour of the green room area.

The Green Room Program started in 2003 with Burlington-area schools, but it has been such a success that we are offering it to other schools statewide as funding becomes available. Participants are asked to write a short “review” of their experience afterwards.

“It was interesting to get to talk to some of the symphony members who were very humorous.”

“I felt honored to go behind the scene at the Flynn because not many people get to see this.”

“It was cool to see all the instruments up close and to see what goes on before concerts.”

“The concert was really amazing I couldn’t believe there were that many violinists.”



Ear Buds

ear-buds-logoEar Buds is designed to enhance very young children’s exposure to music and music instruction. The program encompasses all aspects of a child’s early musical development, including singing, instruments, and movement. The music teacher who presents this program is Megumi Esselstrom. She completed a FAME (Feierabend Association in Music Education) course, and decided to put her training into action under the aegis of the VSO.  Charlotte Children’s School writes: “Earbuds exposes our community’s youngest members to a variety of musical mediums, creating space for them to establish their initial relationship with music and explore its power.” We have visions of expanding the program to be statewide, turning countless toddlers into “budding” classical music fans!!