Symphony for Simple Simon is a fun musical production performed by League members to introduce the symphony to children. Aimed at pre-K through 3rd grade students, the musical, the booklet, and CD are tools for achieving music education objectives. Phil Harmonic teaches Simple Simon and the children about different instruments, demonstrating the sounds and playing techniques of each. The Simon Simón Singers never forget that somewhere in that crowd of little children sits a conductor, violinist, or percussion leader of the future, or a business man or woman who will one day work hard to support the continuation of our wonderful Austin Symphony Orchestra. Symphony for Simple Simon’s proud heritage dates back to 1957 when Austin writer and humorist Anne Durrum Robinson offered 23 original rhymes about orchestral instruments to the Women’s Symphony League of Austin. Mrs. Robinson said that if the WSL would produce and promote the poems in an illustrated booklet she would donate all proceeds to the Austin Symphony. The WSL board immediately accepted her proposal. Artist Betsy Warren contributed outstanding illustrations of orchestral instruments and charming characters –Simple Simon and Phil Harmonic. Many thousands of booklets were sold, primarily to other symphony groups throughout North America.
In 1982, WSL charter member Joan King Holtzman set the poems to music. Committee Chairman Jenefred Heiderhorst Davies created enrichment activities related to the information in the songs, and Nancy McCoy chaired the production of a cassette, scheduling recording sessions for orchestra members and singer Barbara Amaral. In the final recording, Ms. Amaral sings each song accompanied by Mrs. Holtzman and followed by an orchestra member’s performance of a typical classical excerpt. In 1986 the book and cassette won the Award of Excellence at the annual convention of the American Symphony Orchestra League in Toronto. Production of a sparkling new edition in 1988 was chaired by Karen Owen, keeping the basics intact while making the book and cassette covers more attractive.
La Sinfónica de Simón originated from the award winning educational program Symphony for Simple Simon. In 1999, WSL member Alegria Arce Hibbetts had the foresight to see that this wonderful musical program would be a beneficial learning tool for elementary-age English-speaking students who are studying Spanish and or speak Spanish as a primary language. She adapted five of the songs for performance in Spanish and organized a group of singers, the Simónitas, who perform mainly in schools with large numbers of Spanish-speaking children. The program is now performed by the Simon Simón Singers.
In 2016, Simple Simon and Simón Simón were combined into a multi-lingual program called Simon Simón. Since the inception of Symphony for Simple Simon and La Sinfónica de Simón, WSL volunteers, now called the Simon Simón Singers, have presented programs in elementary schools throughout Central Texas. Today, as a result of the talent and generosity of the author, composer, and curriculum specialist, children all over America have enjoyed the adventures of Simple Simon and have learned much about the Symphony in the process.