Spotted in Manila, 2014

Friday, May 31, 2013

Back at ISK

Trade Winds returned to the International School of Kenya yesterday to perform a concert for the elementary schoolers. The audience was about 90 students grades 2-5 and they were so curious, attentive, and excited. Since the students take music class regularly, some of what we discussed was familiar, however they had never seen many of our instruments, and rarely see live performances. We were so honored to perform for them!

We opened our concert with a performance of the exciting 1st movement of Ligeti's "6 Bagatelles". It is quick and funny, the perfect way to grab the attention of a young student. We also performed other movements of this work, part of the Nielsen quintet, and Malcolm Arnold's recognizable "Three Shanties". Each piece had an interactive activity to highlight an important feature of each piece, and we had SO much fun performing the concert.

We are looking forward to a restful Saturday to prepare for a busy week of teaching in more schools and for our performance at the Nairobi Music Society.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Music motivates the mind"

I was so thrilled when The Nairobi School contacted me a few months ago hoping to collaborate with Trade Winds. It is a beautiful, well funded school with a student body of 1,400 high school boys. They come from all over Kenya, from all socio-economic backgrounds, and are accepted to be boarders at the school by exam. It is one of four schools in Kenya that has a band program and they truly value the impact arts have on their students' maturity and education. The students equally see the value in music. The principal explained that many students request to play in the band but must be rejected because there are not enough instruments for everyone. So the band students are considered very lucky.

We arrived at the school this morning at 8:30, pulling into the school's driveway up to a perfect grid of lined up boys in blue and grey uniforms. They were having a weekly assembly and were discussing their expected guests today--us. When they saw we arrived, we were invited to the front of the assembly and greeted with applause and a performance of both the Kenyan and American national anthems performed by the band students we were anxious to meet and work with. 

The band teachers, Moses and Andrew had taken the time to create a schedule for the day. Each section would come for 2 one-hour sectionals with us throughout the workshop, and two sectionals would happen at once. This allowed each of the five members of Trade Winds to work with every student, as well as team teach with each other in different combinations of teachers. 

I began by leading a brass sectional with Nick and Brian. The students were so amazingly talented and committed to playing their instruments. It was very inspiring. However because the school does so well in disciplining the students to be prim and proper, it was impossible to get the students to speak. So before our next sectional I lead a quick icebreaker game that involved yelling and jumping. To my surprise, they eagerly joined in and opened up to us. We decided to start each sectional like this for the rest of the day. 

My day continued with another brass sectional, percussion sectional, and two clarinet/saxophone sectionals. As we were finishing up each session, we asked the students to explain how they chose to play their specific instruments. Not surprisingly, we heard some of the most poetic words I've ever heard from teenage boys. One clarinet student explained that he first fell in love with the clarinet when he went to an orchestra concert and heard a very beautiful sound in the ensemble. Not knowing what instrument was playing the solo, he returned to school and visited a band class. He listened to his peers on every instrument, searching for the sound he had heard at the concert. Finally, he heard the clarinet and immediately decided to join the band as the newest clarinet student. 

I asked another student to explain why he loves music. He thought for a moment and said, "after a long day in math class, or of studying for exams, I come to band class tired and exhausted. But I quickly wake up and am excited to be in school, because music motivates the mind."

We closed the 8-hour day with a performance for the students and a word of thanks to the school, principal, teachers, and students. The band teacher said a few words that really illustrated his deep understanding of our mission and project. When we explained that we are the product of over 100 donors and their hard work, he insisted we return to America and thank every donor for their support and help. 

His final words were, "you did not come to the Nairobi School to teach because you thought we needed or deserved your wisdom. You came out of love--the love of your supporters for you, and your own love for creating music." 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 1: ISK!

We have arrived!! It's hard to believe that after nine months of fundraising and planning, Trade Winds actually started our adventure in Kenya today. We landed in Nairobi 28 hours ago, but wanted to make the most out of our short visit. So we started teaching today.

The International School of Kenya has a student body of 900 students, all of which take an art elective. The school, serving students from around the world is very supportive of the arts and offers programs in drama, visual art, choir, and band. The building was beautiful and I was so happy to see a school with such an established music program. The band director, Daniel Ligon, seems to have big plans to expand the music program and I am excited to watch it grow.

We began our day early--with an 8:00am high school band class. It was a good sized band, with 25 students on clarinet, flute, saxophone, trombone, and percussion. We started the class by hearing the band play, while we joined in and doubled the parts. This gave us a chance to really hear the students and understand the kind of music they are working on. We continued by splitting into sections: Christina with flutes, Brian with clarinets, Nick with brass, and since there were no oboes or bassoons in the band, Ellen with saxophones, and myself with percussion. Of course, I am not a percussionist, so I was a little nervous I would have nothing to offer the students. However, they were so excited to have the individual attention of a sectional that they really enjoyed clapping rhythms and practicing dynamics. It is a shame that their band class is so short (65 minutes) that the director isn't able to give them individual section time. But I'm so glad we could offer that, even just for 1 day.

The class ended with a performance we gave of a few movements of Gyorgy Ligeti's "6 Bagatelles". The piece is very exhilarating and different than much of the classical music they have heard. But when we asked for observations, they really noticed the things we focused on in sectionals: varied articulations and dynamics. One student commented that those aspects of music "really bring a piece to life". I was so happy to hear this. So we made sure to remind them that their job as musicians is to bring a piece of music to life using things like articulations and dynamics.

From 12:30 to 1:30 we repeated this same lesson plan with the middle school band, an even bigger ensemble with 50 students. We were so impressed with their level of commitment and enthusiasm. Before we began the class the students were split in friend groups improvising with each other! It was very refreshing.

At 2:00 we visited the school's IB music class which has three 11th grade students who are very talented and interested in pursuing music as a career. They focus on theoretical analysis and performance, so the teacher asked us to give a live performance of the same Ligeti we performed that morning. Then, the students were to guess the era of the piece. Their thinking was so accurate when they mentioned things like dissonance, unusual rhythms, and specific articulations. We were so impressed!

It was really inspiring to begin our project with a very established and accomplished music program, especially since it was our first day teaching as a team. We are excited to return to ISK for one more performance on Thursday!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Project Philippines Documentary Premiere

I am so happy to be spreading the word about a very exciting benefit for Project Philippines! On May 16 at 7:30 we will be premiering our documentary about the project last June as well as displaying art work and journal entries by our students throughout the Philippine Center (556 5th Ave. between 45th and 46th St.). Following the premiere, we will have a question and answer session with a representative from Artists Striving to End Poverty, and of course, refreshments. Suggested donation is $20 and $10 for students and children. All proceeds from the event will go toward our next trip, Project Philippines 2014! Check out the trailer for the film here:

This night is going to be very special for me. I still remember so vividly the radiance of every student and I am so thrilled we are able to share their beauty with our donors and the rest of the community here. I really can't wait for this event.