A Fellows’ Reflection: May 9 – May 22

As our Civic Orchestra season season approaches its final two weeks, the fellows have celebrated several culminating events . After months of preparation, we enjoyed the finale of our CSO-Connect and community engagement projects, in what was some of the most challenging, yet most rewarding, work of this year.

On May 9, the fellows gathered with our student-collaborators from the CSO-Connect partner schools at Agassiz, Clinton, Disney, Edwards, and Swift to premiere the art works they had been creating since we first met with them in January. At this beautiful capstone event, there was singing, slam poetry, puppetry, instrumental playing and visual art inspired by the themes of courage and identity from the story of Don Quixote.

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

I was privileged to co-host the Connect event with our viola fellow, Kip Riecken. We held brief interviews between performances with some of the student performers. One student from Edwards said, with much confidence, “we want everyone to know that even though we are children, we have opinions and we have a voice.” All were thankful for her succinct articulation of what we were hoping to showcase throughout the day – especially with our creative catalyst for the event, Yo-Yo Ma, in attendance. To cap it all off, the morning concluded with a stunning solo performance by Yo-Yo, as a gift to the children for their hard work. I quickly celebrated how wonderful the event was before moving on to the next project: our community engagement work in the Western Suburbs.

In the fall, Kip, Kenji Sasaki, Kristin Perry, Alex Schwarz and myself, designed a project from scratch. As the season progressed, what began as ideas on paper transformed into a formal grant proposal and budget and, finally, a real project with participants. Over the course of two sessions at a retirement community in North Riverside, The Scottish Home, we devised musical pieces of storytelling for each resident. We took their stories and created scripts, musical accompaniment, and musical dedications. Lastly, the five of us performed these works during our third and final session.Kenji_Scottish_BLog

A particularly special moment at The Scottish Home was when Alex read the words of his resident-collaborator, Ian, followed by an arrangement from the beginning of Mahler’s First Symphony. Ian listened with a smile, and at the end of the piece said to Alex, “it’s like you were there with me,” as they hugged. Kenji gained a new best friend with the resident he composed with, Helen. And Kristin organized and dedicated a short performance of The Bartered Bride to former ballerina and current resident, Irene, who cried as she listened to the music for which she once danced. Our hearts felt full and we were honored to give these stories — stories that the residents originally considered “average” — the attention and spotlight they always deserved.

These musical celebrations have energized me to finish this season with an open heart, as well as a renewed joy to make music.

By Midori Samson

Cover Photo by Todd Rosenberg