Welcome back to my second blog on our residency in Baltimore with OrchKids Program. We continued to prepare our side-by-side concert in the afternoons with the OrchKids and spent the mornings and evenings in various meetings and discussion groups.
Highlights for me included participating in a speaking event with Katie Wyatt and Lorrie Heagy (two other fellows) organized by Dan Trahey, the OrchKids director. It was a low-key event, just speaking to a group of hotel guests about El Sistema and the Abreu Fellows Program. It was a chance for me to work on my public speaking and answer some questions. I have to say, being in roundtable discussions everyday during class helps with this kind of event. I felt comfortable and I'd like to think we peaked the interest of our guests.
On Thursday night we had a short discussion with Marin Alsop, the conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Even though it was just a half hour before her concert she seemed very relaxed and personable. Regarding the programs we'll be starting ourselves next year, she encouraged us to find a community we know, some friends we trust and "just do it!".
I asked her about how to get other symphony orchestras involved. She responded that it was probably more important to start these instrumental programs for youth as soon as possible, with or without orchestras, since big orchestra management tends to move and evolve slowly. She added that parterning with smaller orchestras, where the players may have more time to teach, is a great way to involve an orchestra in El Sistema-like programs. I agree. El Sistema in Venezuela exists in the big cities and in the mountains. It's not good enough if it's only accesible to some.
And now here's another inside look at the real highlight of the week, the OrchKids.
In this video, David Malek (another fellow) and I chat with two bright students in the program.
Remember the "Tocar Y Luchar" medallions from El Sistema Venezuela that Roberto Zambrano gave us? Well the OrchKids receive a similar one, that they wear when they play concerts. They are blue and white, the colors of Unicef. In ceremonial fashion each fellow was presented with our own OrchKids medallion by one of the kids. On the back of the medal it says "Planting Seeds for a Bright Future". Here's a video of me receiving my mine.
The Baltimore Symphony is doing great things to get involved in their community. The OrchKids have had the chance to not only attend the symphony but to also sit on stage during rehearsals AND conduct the orchestra. Most of us will never get this opportunity. Kudos to the Balitmore Symphony. In this picture, Marin Alsop is conducting the OrchKids at our concert on Friday. Mark Churchill the El Sistema USA's director is also playing with the kids in the background. Students from the Baltimore School for the Arts joined us as well.
The picture below is me participating in Bucket Band. For the kids this class is fun and challenging. They have to be able to play piano (softly), forte (loudly), on different parts of the bucket, recognize the different sounds the bucket can make, play with the drumsticks together or alternating, speak and play at the same time...all together as a group. It's hard. I have to admit, I messed up a few times. But this is the standard to which the teachers hold their students. OrchKids is fun, but the bar is set high, as it should be.
Here's a video of the last portion of Friday's concert. In it the OrchKids are being led in a Samba Percussion number, by Jo Wills of World in Motion, an educational percussion group based in London. You can see some of the fellows drumming as well. Mentoring and peer-to-peer is always happening. After the concert Dan Trahey addressed the kids in the audience and told them that if they want to be in OrchKids to simply ask their teachers. He added that "all of you can do what these kids are doing, you can all play music". Hopefully they've recruited a few new members.
OrchKids jamming out in their T-shirts and medallions:
Hanging out post-concert with OrchKids, Christine, Raffi and Dan:
Fellows back at Logan Airport waiting for the bus:
This week we're back in Boston for more seminars and discussion. In addition we will be doing some site tours here in Boston, including playing a concert at a local YMCA. There are rumors of another residency later on this year in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic's Youth Orchestra LA program. I'll keep you posted.
For more pics and videos on our week in Baltimore please visit the other fellows' blogs.
Questions and comments on my blog are always welcome.