The Amarillo Symphony started a program in 1999 called Music Makes the Difference (MMD). This was a creative program that took small groups of ASO musicians into the elementary schools. Each ensemble would stay with the same school for the entire week where they would present a short concert to the entire school. The ensemble would then go into individual classrooms to play music and have the children draw pictures or do some creative writing in response to how they felt about the music they heard. This was a wonderful program that brought so much out of the children. When the children knew they were going to draw or write something in response to the music, it gave them more reason to listen more intently. We saw so many wonderful drawings, funny stories, and deeply emotional writings.
One of the ensembles I participated in was a trio for oboe, French horn, and piano. We played the Reinecke Trio. My husband David played horn and David Palmer from Chamber Music Amarillo played piano. It was great fun.
Occasionally, we would see a student writing about something quite troubling. After verifying with the student that it wasn't just some scene they saw in a movie, we would bring it to the teacher's attention at the end of the day. I recall one incident where a student was so moved by the exercise of writing to the music, he requested two sheets of paper to write on and then he proceeded to open up about a tragic death he had witnessed. Up until this point, he would never really reveal to anyone just how much this affected him. After the school counselor visited with the youth about his story, she said it was "like the flood-gates had opened up". The youth finally talked everything over with the counselor.
Music Makes the Difference was so rewarding in the elementary schools that we decided to try it out at an advertising agency. We played for the employees of the McCormick Co. and asked them to write or draw in response. It was a great stress reducer for the employees and gave them an opportunity to express themselves. The company was so impressed with the program, they made a large donation to the ASO.
In 2002, MMD won the Golden Touch Award which is given by the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce during the annual Golden Nail Awards Ceremony.