September 8, 2020

For decades, the Saint Joseph Symphony has hosted a field trip to the Missouri Theater each fall to introduce elementary students to the historic venue and to orchestral music. In 2020, the musicians will be playing on the Missouri Theater stage, but the audience experience will be virtual.

Guest conductor, Dr. John Strickler will lead an ensemble of thirteen symphony players presenting “Aesop’s Fables” by composer, Richard Maltz and narrated by story-teller, Brad Shaw. The famous fables are set in light, musical vignettes illustrated with descriptive and colorful characters designed to introduce instruments of the orchestra and teach elements of music to elementary students.

For 23 years, Strickler was Music Director of the Topeka (KS) Symphony and held the same position with the Gulf Coast Symphony in Biloxi, MS for 15 years. He has a long history of exceptional musicianship as conductor and accompanist, and a great passion for teaching. A native of New Glarus, Wisconsin,  Strickler graduated with distinction from the University of Wisconsin. He holds a Master’s in conducting and a PhD in music theory from the University of Southern California.

Brad Shaw, a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, is considered a “Renaissance Man” in the theater world. His name can be found on programs as actor, director, choreographer, costumer, set designer, and playwright. His teaching experience includes improvisation, costuming, puppetry, and storytelling. Shaw has taught in the Kansas City Public Schools and in surrounding school districts.

“The challenges of the pandemic have also presented us with opportunities,” said SJS Managing Director, Lori McAlister. “John had suggested Aesop’s Fables long before the pandemic. The fact that it only requires 13 orchestra members makes it possible to safely distance them while playing. We had not done any recording or streaming before, but this seemed an ideal opportunity to try it out. Offering Youth Concert Day online will allow us to reach far more students than we would with a conventional field trip.”

Instructors at public and private schools, home schools, music classes and after-school programs are all encouraged to register. Anyone with access to the internet can log in to watch the program. It will be available on YouTube (with a password) from October 5 – November 27, 2020 and again February 1 – March 31, 2021. Thanks to grant funding from The Harry and Helena Messick Charitable Trust of U.S. BANK, there will be no charge to participating schools and student groups.

Registration is online at The deadline for the first session is September 25, 2020. Free, downloadable cross-curricular materials are available to supplement the recorded program. For more information, contact the Saint Joseph Symphony at 816-233-7701 or

Categorized in: