In early February, I spent several days in the Champaign-Urbana region doing education outreach for schoolchildren as part of my Composer-in-Residence activities. A brass quintet consisting of members of the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra came with me to Urbana Middle School, Westview Elementary School, and Stratton Academy of the Arts (an elementary school). At each school, we presented an interactive program that engaged the students in the composing process while learning about Greek mythology.
First, the brass players introduced their instruments to the children via demonstrations and some historical background.
Next, I introduced my brass quintet Legends of Olympus, and the brass quintet performed a few movements from the piece so the schoolchildren could hear what the instruments sound like altogether.
Then, I introduced various musical parameters to the students. Basically, we explored what elements composers utilize to create and shape a composition.
Now we got down to business! The students and I had a job to do: we were to dream up a new movement to end my brass quintet. The movement focused on Nike, the goddess of strength, speed, and victory. The students brainstormed ideas for the story of our new movement; then I created a musical score using graphic notation.
The brass quintet then “premiered” our new Nike movement while I conducted the musicians through the score.
We concluded each class with a question-and-answer session. The students were very inquisitive; one of the most commonly asked questions was how long each musician has played his or her instrument – the answer spanned from 20 to 56 years!
We took a group bow at Westview, and received wonderful thank you notes a day later from their students.
The CUSO brass performers and I will bring this event to three more schools in the upcoming months. I look forward to seeing what the students dream up next for Nike’s new movement!
Thank you Barbara and Ronald Hedlund for the photos.