DETROIT — The Detroit Symphony Orchestra took a tour of more than 400 schools Wednesday in its hometown and beyond, but the road trip was a virtual one.
Orchestra officials launched the first in a series of educational webcasts with two back-to-back performances that were viewed in 300 Detroit schools and 125 others nationwide — reaching about 40,000 students.
The Classroom Edition is an extension of Live from Orchestra Hall, the free symphony webcast that launched in 2011 and now is watched in more than 100 countries. The goal of the new grant-funded, three-year series is to bring the webcasts to students by holding them during the day and incorporating interactive lesson plans for teachers.
“This is ingenious,” said Jonathan Walker, dean of kindergarten through fourth-grade students at University Yes Academy, one of Detroit’s participating schools.
“It broadens their horizons, and it exposes them to something that they’re typically not exposed to,” he added. “I hope it sparks something and maybe one day they’ll want to join (the orchestra), or maybe it will spark an interest in music.”
The premiere of “An American Adventure” was hosted by actor and Detroit native Damon Gupton and featured the debut of assistant conductor Michelle Merrill. And it was, in fact, live from Orchestra Hall.
The series is also an evolution of the orchestra’s Educational Concert Series, which brings Detroit students to see the orchestra. That continues, but officials recognized that some students will not come and it would be important to go to them.
Paul Hogle, the ensemble’s executive vice president, said the funding will allow the orchestra to produce two webcasts in each of the three seasons. The series was developed with people who worked on the Public Broadcasting Service series “Sesame Street” and “3-2-1 Contact.”
Kristana Spearman, a 10th-grader at University Yes, said she usually listens to hip-hop and rap and gets her classical from “elevators and restaurants.” But the performance gave her new perspective and interest in the form.
“I really like how they’re combining different things. … I didn’t know you could do all that,” said Spearman, 16, who previously “tried” to play sax and cello. “It never seemed to work for me but I might try again,” she said.