The Power of Music

Unit 5: Building Community – print

Los Angeles Philharmonic Educational Initiatives
Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA)
Los Angeles, CA
Emily Kubitskey and Nikki Shorts, teaching artists

Many music educators are familiar with culturally sensitive practices and techniques used to nurture diverse learners from diverse cultures — practices that support authentic multicultural learning in the classroom.

Using these ideas as a foundation, in Los Angeles an entire K-2 multicultural curriculum has been built around a single piece of orchestral repertoire — Sibelius’s Finlandia, a symphonic tone poem. Through the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s educational initiatives, teaching artists Emily Kubitskey and Nikki Shorts use the curriculum to celebrate different cultures around the globe, as well as in Los Angeles.

The culmination is a powerful Neighborhood Project Day Concert, which brings together more than two thousand elementary-school singers and student musicians from Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), who all have been studying Finlandia. This event takes community building to a new level of inclusivity. Students learn that through music, they can create a memorable experience they all share.


  • Programs both serve and respond to the needs of a community, as well as build on the assets of a community.
  • Ensemble music-making is at the heart of all learning — both musical and social.
  • No student is too young to be a vital contributing member of a musical ensemble.
  • Musicians have a responsibility to share their skills or knowledge with others who are still learning.



  • Using a single piece of repertoire (in this case Finlandia) to drive an entire curriculum unit and to serve as a centerpiece for a large-scale performance
  • Using boomwhackers to enable youngsters who can’t read music to play together in an ensemble
  • Playing team-building games during “buddy time,” which brings together older and younger students
  • Discussing how to be a helpful mentor
  • Bringing together a large group of musicians with different skill levels to perform for the community



The musical activities in this unit address the following Anchor Standards of the National Core Arts Standards:


  • Analyze, interpret, and select artistic work for presentation
  • Develop and refine artistic work for presentation
  • Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work


  • Perceive and analyze artistic work
  • Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work


  • Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art
  • Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding