Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thoughts on chaperoning: Northrop Grumman Symphonies For Schools

With the recent news coverage of Northrop Grumman and the military contract they recently won, I thought I would write about the other side of Northrop Grumman as sponsor for the education department of the LA Phil.

On February 28, I had the pleasure of chaperoning the middle school trip to see the LA Phil conducted by Joana Carneiro perform Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "New World Symphony." The middle school symphony is amazing. We have one student who is a prodigy. I am not just saying this either. He's also one of the nicest and most focused and well-mannered students on campus but this goes for most of the students in symphony. I am pretty lucky in that I am asked to attend these things even though I have no real knowledge of classical music.

The performance of "New World Symphony" also coincided with a dramatic performance of Dvorak's contributions to American classical music /African-American History month. That was a little unexpected but it broke up the different parts of the symphony nicely (especially since the audience was made up of hundreds of L.A. middle schoolers). I learned about how Dvorak came to the United States to help create a style of classical music that was "America" and based it on folk music, African American spirituals and other American musical styles. The actors were interesting and one of them had the most amazing voice that just filled the concert hall. If I were a singer, I would want to sing in the concert hall. The acoustics are absolutely incredible.

I have only heard 1 part of the "New World Symphony" and it was just amazing listening to it live and in all it's 3 part glory. Also, one of the actors pointed out the influences of a section and it was great knowing where a beat or progression came from. We also had incredible seats where we had an excellent view of Joana Carniero. She is absolutely fascinating to watch. One student pointed out that she conducts ahead of the beat, which kind of blew my mind. She also uses every bit of her body to conduct. I have never seen anyone conduct with so much style and mannerisms. I was in awe of her.

Another great moment was listening to the pieces composed by 6 middle/high school students. 2 of the students are from the school. They were asked to represent America in the pieces they created. These are 14 - 18 year olds! Another mind blowing inspirational moment. If you let kids take off and nurture certain talents they can go so far.

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