Vermont Symphony Orchestra


Education and community collaboration have always been an important part of the VSO’s statewide mission.  We are proud to offer programming geared towards students of all ages, from preschool through college.

The SymphonyKids vision statement: “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.”

Our educational programs are made possible in part by VSO’s endowed funds, including, 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, and the Kate Tamarkin Education Fund, as well as the George M. Mergens Foundation and individual donors who support VSO’s educational work on a project-by-project basis.

We also thank the Doolittle Family Foundation, and to Pat Robins and Lisa Schamberg, for their generous support of VSO’s overall education department and initiatives in the 2023-2024 season.

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



New this year: Adult Education Series

We are pleased to partner this year with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Vermont Humanities Council to offer a series of lecture/discussions that dig deeply into topics related to concert programs.  Join us!

Sept. 26, 2023 with OLLI and Andrew Crust “VSO Offstage: Spotlight on the Conductor”

Oct. 13, 2023 with VT Humanities and Matt LaRocca and Julio Desmont “Finding Inspiration Across the Arts”

Dec. 13, 2023 with VT Humanities and Mark Howe “Dancing in the Street: Carols and Songs of the Holiday Season”

Feb. 28, 2024 with OLLI and Katherine Winterstein “VSO Offstage – The Hollywood Sound

Stay tuned for more lectures in March and April!  Info will be posted here, and also at the Vermont Humanities Council and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.



Musicians-in-Schools Programs

September – May

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-5.

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.

Email our Education Coordinator to schedule a performance at your school!



Student Insiders

March 3, 2024

For elementary and 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 3, 2024 is at the Paramount Theater in Rutland, and features the VSO performing film scores in our program titled “The Hollywood Sound.”  This program is fully funded by generous community members.

More information and sign-up here

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


MasterClef Composition Competition 2024

For the third 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.

This year’s MasterClef Competition will be in partnership with Nico Muhly as he visits Burlington for the premiere of a newly commissioned work on May 4, 2024.  Submissions for the MasterClef Competition will are due March 31, 2024.

Click here for competition guidelines, eligibility, and application info!

Young Composers

September – May

Each year the VSO partners with Music-COMP to provide composition instruction and mentorship with professional Vermont composers, on site in public schools across the state.  VSO musicians meet with student composers to demonstrate their instruments, play through draft compositions and perform final works in a public concert.  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


Past Education Events


Electric Strings Workshop

February 2023


In February 2023, the VSO collaborated with electric violinist Tracy Silverman to offer an electric strings workshop at the Winooski Valley Music District Jazz Festival. Over 60 public school string students joined us for this opportunity.



Violin Masterclass

May 2023

In May 2023, Bella Hristova offered a masterclass for advanced violin students as part of her visit to Burlington to perform with the VSO. Teachers nominated promising students to participate in front of an audience of their peers and community members.

Click here for more information!



MasterClef Competition 2022

September-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.


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!!




Watch to catch a glimpse of our programs!



SymphonyKids is made possible by the generosity of:

Neat Repeats Resale Shop

Doolittle Family Foundation

Turrell Fund