Portland, OR. “Kids are at home, parents are home-schooling, and we believed we could help,” explains Norman Hunyh, the Associate Conductor of the Oregon Symphony. It was because of the dearth of summer activities for kids that Symphony Storytime was born. In each episode of the new virtual series, a narrator reads a classic children’s book while members of the Oregon Symphony provide background music and sound effects. Assistant Principal Oboist Karen Wagner and host Amy Haroldson (seen in the photo above) tell the story of a “Top Cat” who doesn’t want to share his house and favorite things. (photo credit, Jacob Wade). 

A lesson on the featured background instrument makes these 15-minute episodes both entertaining and educational. On June 25,  the first episodes of Symphony Storytime were released. One was called “Mole Music,” and features the Cello. When Mole finally learns to play the violin, his music has an effect more magical than he will ever know. Written by David McPhail. Hosted by Amy Haroldson and featuring Marilyn de Oliveira, assistant principal cello.

Assistant Principal Oboist Karen Wagner and host Amy Haroldson perform for the Oregon Symphony’s new children’s program, Symphony Storytime (Jacob Wade).

Hunyh provided the artistic vision for Symphony Storytime by setting educational objectives and establishing the flow of each piece, among other responsibilities. Hunyh described this project as “new and exciting territory”. 

Assistant Principal Second Violinist Inés Voglar Belgique (Jacob Wade)

Assistant Principal Cellist Marilyn de Oliveira (Jacob Wade)

Each story was chosen because it meant something special to the musicians.  

“I really like [Mole Music] because it talks about how music changes Mole’s life, and it also shows us how music can change the world around us,” says cellist Marilyn de Oliveira in the first episode. 

Guitarist and vocalist Edna Vazquez and percussionist and host Sergio Carreno maintain social distance on set. Hunyh’s top priority was the health and safety of musicians and staff. (Jacob Wade)

Many participants in the project are native Spanish speakers, such as guitarist and vocalist Edna Vázquez who performs in the Symphony Storytime episode “Necesito un Abrazo”, which helped inspire the creation of unique Spanish episodes. The Spanish episodes are not translations of the English episodes, rather their own stories, intended to support and engage the Latinx community. 

Symphony Storytime’s first release included “Mole Music”, “Top Cat”, and “Goodnight Bob” in English featuring cello, oboe, and percussion, respectively. Necesito un Abrazo” and Ve, Perro. ¡Ve!” were released in Spanish, featuring guitar and violinMore episodes will be released on July 2 and July 9. 

From the Oregon Symphony:

The power of music to unite and inspire is boundless. Music lifts us higher on our most joyful days, and draws us together in challenging times. As soon as it’s safe, we’ll be back – performing for you in our concert hall and reaching out to children and adults across our region.