A Fellow’s Reflection: March 13 – 26

On March 13th, some of the Civic Fellows participated in the Negaunee Music Institute’s residency at Illinois Youth Center – Chicago. This residency was led by Sara Lee and Rex Horan from the London-based Irene Taylor Trust: Music in Prisons.

This was one of the most unique residencies we have experienced this season. Over the course of a week, the fellows, Institute staff member James Hall, Sara and Rex, and composer Josh Fink collaborated with residents at IYCC to create six original songs to be recorded and performed at the end of the project.  Throughout the process we assisted the youth in playing keyboard, drums, guitar and marimba. The majority of the songs fell into the genre of hip-hop with one reggae-inspired track, though orchestral instruments (performed by members of the CSO) were featured in preludes and interludes composed by Josh. Some of the lyricists used their daily life at IYCC as inspiration for some of the songs. Other songs addressed social justice issues (one of the songs was titled “Black Lives Matter”).

I was moved to be creating music inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement with Chicago’s underserved youth. Observing Sara and Rex lead this project was quite remarkable. Their participant engagement and rehearsal techniques were the most insightful the fellows have observed this season. This experience opened my eyes to new ways of engaging students.

In addition to the residency at IYCC, the fellows squeezed in a few rehearsals for a chamber concert at the Zhou B Art Center in Bridgeport.  Every year, Civic plays chamber music at Zhou B on the third Friday of the month during open studio nights. This eccentric performance space attracts a fresh and diverse audience. The March program included the Stravinsky Octet, Prokofiev Quintet and several string quartets by Britten, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Smetana. There will be one more Civic chamber concert this year at Zhou B on May 19th at 7pm.

By Patrick Tsuji

Photo by Todd Rosenberg