Creative Connections

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I’ve just returned from a tremendously inspiring week with the leadership team from Creative Connections, the BSO’s OrchKids staff and faculty, Peabody Conservatory students, and some of my fellow NEC Fellows. Together, we worked with Baltimore City Public School students in a massive, collaborative and completely original music project.  In five intense days at six different schools, under the guidance of expert musicians from the Guildhall School in London, students wrote and developed beautiful, powerful pieces of expression. From ages 5-18, students generously shared in a uniquely creative spirit and the result was a stunning composition with two performances of fresh and exciting music. From hip hop to ballads to classical funk to dance breaks, this new music is the empowered and proud voice of Baltimore’s remarkable youth. For more information about Creative Connections please visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/285348735/creative-connections-baltimore-2013

Here is a reflection piece I wrote for Peabody Conservatory’s Creative Leadership Immersion Class:

I’ve had a few weeks to process my experience in Baltimore with Creative Connections. The haunting melodies and colorful rhythms are no longer on continuous loop in my head, the glorious afterglow of a powerhouse performance has faded from my countenance, and the warm feeling of musical community is now just a happy memory.

In my many years of musical experiences, that week in Baltimore will forever stand out as a magical and transformative event. I have never been part of such a completely collaborative creative process in which ego seemed to be absent and dedication and enthusiasm overwhelmingly present.

I was extremely impressed by the leaders of this workshop. Exceptional musical skills aside, the encouragement, empathy, positivity and direction displayed allowed for the perfect storm of participation. Creating an environment of acceptance, equality, and respect with over 100 students of varying ages is no easy feat. Dan, Jill, Sam, Ross, Natasha, Heather and Detta seamlessly created and facilitated a cohesive cast of young composers, poets, instrumentalists and singers in joyful expression.

Joy, in fact, is probably the most paramount of descriptors I’d choose for the week. Leaders and students were united in the joy of creating original and unique music; of finding voices in the din and working as a team to assemble and present musical narratives. I will never forget the laughter, the smiles, and the way this process fostered a special kind of communal joy through music.

The successful use of modeling was a powerful tool in this process. Students who had participated in the previous workshops jumped right in and led the way while others, inspired by this fearlessness, helped to build pieces throughout the week. In performance, I watched the younger students look to the older ones in awe and admiration. It was almost as if a projection of their potential future was being presented before them. This trickle down effect also reached the hundreds of Baltimore City Public School students who participated in the event as audience members. I can imagine that in celebrating their peers’ work, new seeds of personal possibility and potential were planted.

I have always believed that composition is a fantastic genre for teaching and in this week experienced a whole new way of working in this medium. While I observed great student learning, I also experienced significant personal growth. For the first time in a long time, I felt free and eager to sing and create with others. Who would have ever thought that something this radical would happen in the confines of Peabody Conservatory? Because of my time in Baltimore and my current time at NEC, I am rejuvenated and hopeful about the direction of conservatory music education. I look forward to furthering this sublime movement of Creative Connection in my future endeavors, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have shared music in such a remarkable way.

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