This fall we had the privilege of being this year’s artists-in-residence for Musical Masterworks, a fantastic arts organization whose mission is in part to bring musical experiences to under-served areas of New London and Middlesex County, Connecticut. Since the commencement of their outreach program in 1997, Musical Masterworks has presented more than 100 concerts for more than 15,000 students, featuring various artists including the Harlem String Quartet, the New England Percussion Ensemble, and the Imani Winds. During our residency we had the pleasure of sharing our music with some amazing students at their fantastic schools.
Our first performance took place at the Interdistrict School for Arts And Communication (ISAAC) located in New London’s historic Waterfront District. Music and the arts are considered a foundational part of the learning experience at ISAAC, and we were excited to perform for and work with the music students there. In addition to working with woodwind students, we had the opportunity to work with a vocal ensemble. While at first we were, admittedly, a little out of our comfort zone, we quickly found our stride and proceeded to have one of our best masterclasses in which we explored the ideas of musical phrasing and ensemble communication. To end our day, we headed over to the BP Learned Mission and performed for the students at their after-school program. It was an intimate little concert for a great group of kids.
A good friend of the quartet and fellow saxophonist, Lisa Conant, is the band director at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. We were more than happy to spend two days there, giving us the chance to perform for the entire student body and still spend an entire day working with our colleague's band students. During the masterclasses, we spent time one-on-one with the students which was a nice change of pace from the larger group lessons that we had been presenting.
One of the more unique schools we visited was the Integrated Day Charter School. IDCS boasts a truly interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum and learning environment. The school has a very open layout with very few barriers dividing the community learning spaces. Grade levels are often combined and students routinely demonstrate their learning through multiple disciplines and mediums. The bright and talented students were an engaged and enthusiastic audience for our two performances there. We also enjoyed spending time with a small group of instrumental students for a fun afternoon class. Did we forget to mention that IDCS is housed in an old Thermos® factory? It came as a surprise to us as well.
However, the Regional Multicultural Magnet School gets the award for the most historic building that we visited. A portion of RMMS is located in the refurbished gothic-style Bulkeley School for Boys, founded in the 1880s. In addition to admiring the stonework and the stained-glass, we were also admiring the RMMS students who were a very attentive audience and posed some very thoughtful questions such as, "Which saxophone is the hardest to play?" and "Why did you decide to play the saxophone?". We also had some help from the wonderful “Miss Cinderella”, who lead the students in a movement activity during the tune Groove Machine.
At the Friendship School we were thrilled to play for our youngest audience to date (3 to 5-year-olds). We were pleasantly surprised at how well they paid attention to these four strangers with big, loud, and shiny instruments. However, for some of the little ones, this new experience was a little too much to process. One particular student quote remains in our minds from the Friendship School: “My feet are really hot right now.”
Throughout our residency with Musical Masterworks we were constantly inspired by the students and staff of these fantastic schools. We are very thankful to everyone at Musical Masterworks for giving us this opportunity to share our music with almost 2,000 students this fall. We would also like to extend our biggest thanks to Pam Allen Hunter, who worked tirelessly to arrange and schedule all of our school visits. Without her hard work we wouldn’t have been able to share our music with so many young people. We are eternally grateful for this experience.