For 50 minutes on Wednesday morning, hundreds of elementary students from Santa Maria and Orcutt schools were treated to scenes of soaring butterflies and birds, videos of humanity's successful (and unsuccessful) attempts to fly and images of celestial bodies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope set to a soundtrack of classical and modern symphony pieces.

The Santa Maria Philharmonic has offered children's concerts for more than a decade, but this marked only the second time that the group performed "Fly Me to the Moon: From JS Bach to Mr. Spock." Held at the Pacific Christian Center in Santa Maria, a second group of students is set to attend the performance Thursday morning.

"How many of you have never been to a symphony before?" Mark Nowak, orchestra music director and creator of the show, asked the audience. Almost every hand went up.

Through Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and even a cover of the Bart Howard jazz standard "Fly Me to the Moon," the show introduces local schoolchildren to the symphony with digestible explanations, humor and even a little bit of wonder.

"There was a time in our life when we went outside at night and we looked up into the sky, and we saw a whole bunch of little lights up in the sky," Nowak said, introducing the composition "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." "We're told they're stars, but they're so far away that we could hardly see them."

From the smallest piccolo to the largest kettle drum, Nowak broke the childhood lullaby down by section to introduce the various woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments that compose the symphony.

By the end of the Philharmonic's two-day run, more than 3,000 children will have experienced the wonders of flight.

The concerts were made possible by grant money provided by the Santa Barbara Bowl, Altrusa International of the Central Coast, the Santa Maria Breakfast and Noontime Rotary clubs, the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation, the Roy & Ida Eagle Foundation, the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, the Chumash Foundation and the Santa Maria Arts Council.


Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.