Music Royalty Comes to CPS 

Student musicians enthralled by the presence of Yo-Yo Ma

March 05, 2013

Music students from two CPS elementary schools were given the opportunity of a lifetime yesterday when they shared the stage with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.


“Having Yo-Yo Ma here interacting with and teaching our students was incredible,” said Angela Maniaci, a music teacher at Swift Elementary. “It shows how important arts education is to CPS.”


The fine arts event at Swift was a preview of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rivers Festival – an examination of the significance of rivers in art and music that begins in early May. The performance included student musicians from both Swift and Waters Elementary, as well as members of the Chicago Civic Orchestra and the legendary Yo-Yo Ma.


Prior to the performance, Yo-Yo Ma participated in two music classes at Swift, playing instruments with the student musicians and helping them create an original composition that would mimic the sound of a rushing river. He then directed a roundtable discussion to help teachers integrate arts education into their daily curriculum, urging them to encourage imagination among their students, whether the subject be music, math or science.


The students from Swift and Waters worked to follow all of Yo-Yo Ma’s guidance during their midday concert, supplementing the notes with lines of poetry and pieces of artwork, all in a river theme. This was followed by a performance from members of the Chicago Civic Orchestra, with Yo-Yo Ma closing the event with a much-anticipated solo.


“Yo-Yo Ma helped show our student musicians that art is not created in a vacuum,” said Amy Vecchioni, a fine arts teacher from Waters Elementary. “He taught them that when you make art, you’re learning about your world, and you’re learning while doing.”


This was the second major arts event for CPS in the past month - evidence of the District’s growing commitment to a comprehensive arts education for all of its students. In early February, world renowned Soprano Renee Fleming performed as part of a musical evening celebrating CPS’ first ever arts education plan, which provides greater coordination, alignment and resources for a robust arts education experience in every classroom.


That evening marked the launch of the Arts Liaison Initiative, which places a fine arts advocate in every school to help students, faculty and school communities expand programming in music, dance, drama and the visual arts. Similarly, the Institute of Learning, Access and Training at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra partnered with four CPS schools, Swift and Waters among them, to create a curriculum that integrates arts education into every subject being explored in the classroom.


“It’s fun for me to watch kids play to their strengths,” said Samantha Gamble, a music teacher at Swift Elementary. “With these integrated projects, you can see the students developing confidence, whether it’s in music, math or science.”


For more information on the CPS Arts Plan, visit