On Tuesday, a chorus of nearly 2,500 singers belted out Carl Orff’s O Fortuna, filling the Akron Civic Theatre with the medieval Latin tune.

All but a handful of them were in fifth grade or younger.

Elementary students from across the region got the chance to sing and play classical tunes Tuesday alongside the Akron Symphony during the Orchestra Rocks Link Up concert at the Civic Theatre.

Link Up is a program created by Carnegie Hall that pairs orchestras across the country with their local schools.

Carnegie created a third- through fifth-grade curriculum that it provides to teachers for free, which they use to guide students throughout the school year in learning the basics of music, from rhythm and tempo to dynamics and different instruments. The curriculum features three levels — vocal, recorder and strings — that can be taught at the same time to students depending on their individual abilities.

The Akron Symphony is one of more than 100 organizations that participate in the program nationwide.

Jim Zwisler, the chair of the Akron Symphony Education Committee, said participation has grown from about 30 Akron elementary schools the first year to 52 schools across the region this year.

The culmination of the program is the annual concert in March, which features the entire Akron Symphony.

“It’s sort of like this wonderful secret that visits downtown Akron once a year,” Zwisler said.

Tuesday’s event featured two back-to-back concerts with more than 3,500 students.

The kids filled the auditorium and buzzed from their seats, many of them with recorders strapped around their necks, ready to play at any moment.

Angela Mitchell, a classically trained soprano vocalist, hosted the show along with Akron Symphony Orchestra conductor Eric Benjamin.

Both led the kids in an interactive 45-minute concert demonstrating “what it means for an orchestra to rock.” Kids played their recorders, sang, stomped their feet, clapped their hands and even listened intently to the likes of Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and more.

The first concert was predominantly students from Akron Public Schools, which has every student in all 27 of its elementary schools participating in the program, along with students from Tallmadge City Schools.

“There’s nothing like hearing thousands of recorders playing at one time,” Tallmadge Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said with a smile. “Everyone should experience it once.”

A goal of the program is to spark students’ interests in music beyond the final concert. So far, it appears to be working in Akron Public Schools.

The district begins offering choir, band and orchestra to kids starting in sixth grade. Nathaniel Duvuvuei, the fine arts coordinator for the district, said participation in music programs has increased since Akron began Link Up four years ago. While he can’t make a direct correlation, he said, Link Up appears to play a role.

“When kids are already connected to the types of books they’re being taught from and are already familiar with music they hear, they’re more likely to join and stick with it,” Duvuvuei said. “As a result, we’re starting to see that flow over into middle school years where we’re starting to see increases.”

Despite playing music all year, and even enjoying the concert, some kids still aren’t interested in joining a music program.

“That’s not my type,” said Ja’adea Dixon, a fifth-grader at Portage Path Community Learning Center.

But for others, the choice is an easy one. Austin Clinton, also a fifth-grader at Portage Path, said he plans to join any program next year that will give him a chance to play the saxophone.

“It’s more groovy to me,” he said.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.