Chicago Public Schools Connect with the CSOA through a Season-Long Partnership

Now in its fourth season, CSO-Connect is a partnership program between the CSO and Chicago Public Schools that functions as a professional development program for CPS teachers from arts and non-arts classrooms. The program focuses on building leadership skills in the area of arts integration. While participating in multiple workshops, teachers analyze their school’s data and collaborate with their peers to develop and implement high quality, arts-rich curricula. Participating schools are provided access to CSO and Civic Orchestra musicians through in-school chamber ensemble performances and attendance of a CSO School Concert.

This season’s CSO-Connect theme is Reflect, Respond, Remix. 2018/19 marks the one-hundredth season of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the CSO’s concert series for children, both of which were founded in 1919 by the CSO’s second music director, Frederick Stock.  November through May, CPS teachers and Civic Fellows engage students in projects that require conversations and reflections on the stories and experiences of a wide range of people in diverse communities throughout Greater Chicago. Students will respond through musical projects that “remix” the history and traditions of orchestral music with the rich cultural diversity of modern day Chicago.

On May 3 and 14, Sullivan High School will host the culminating event, welcoming Agassiz, Calmeca, Clinton, Disney, Innovations, Jahn, Pickard, Sawyer, and Swift schools to their auditorium. There, the CPS students alongside their Civic musician mentors, will present the pieces they have created throughout the year, including writings, visual art, and musical performances, all based on the theme of Reflect, Respond, Remix.

clockwise from top left: CSO-Connect students gather in Orchestra Hall to watch a May 2018 school concert as partnership between the CSO and CPS. Students participate in the 2018 CSO-Connect Culminating Event. | PHOTOS BY TODD ROSENBERG

These performances explore the musical and cultural traditions in Chicago from over the last one-hundred years both within and outside of orchestral music. The second goal is to create an original musical program for use in Chicago Public Schools that melds the city’s history with the experiences of today’s CPS students while creating a vision of the future that is both inclusive and welcoming. Here is a sample of some of this season’s projects.

Agassiz Elementary School

Flash Forward: Chicago through the Ages

Third and seventh grade students will be working together on a project that reflects the past, present, and future of Chicago. By looking at historical events and what has made the city what it is today, students can envision a city of their future.

Students will write non-verbal scripts that depict these timeframes and act them out. To accompany the action, students will compose original music using a mixture of musical styles, inspired by the Flash Back, Flash Forward CSO School Concert and the Amplified Blues exhibit at the Chicago History Museum, that relate to the period of time depicted in each script. Subsequently, as the music is played to accompany the events as they are performed, the effect should be that of a silent movie.

Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts

The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez is about a Mexican boy named Francisco and his family. They cross the border from Mexico to California for a better life as migrant workers. Francisco and his family soon realize that life in America is not what they expected.

Students will read the book and identify the underlying theme of equity and perseverance. Students will then make connections between the Flash Back, Flash Forward CSO School Concert, their own life struggles and that of Francisco. Through reading and writing, students will explore elements of critical thinking, symbolism, culture, and authors’ purpose and tone. For the culminating project, students will write a corrido about Francisco’s life and then students will write a corrido about themselves and how they view equity today.

Clinton Elementary School

Big Idea: Every space has a story to tell about the different ways people use it

Students will be investigating the spaces around them and the ways in which these spaces are used, shared and impacted by the people who occupy them. Many spaces at Clinton school are used by different groups for very different reasons. First grade students will be using a variety of modes to look at and document the stories of these spaces.

Students will be documenting shared spaces throughout the school. They will be making field recordings of these spaces during different times of day and during different types of use. They will use a Social Studies lens to interpret and describe these recordings and make inferences about the types of people and activities captured in these audio documents.

Students will use Sensory and Music concepts to compare and contrast the recordings and connect what they hear to the Social and Emotional Learning concepts that they are engaging during the teaching of the Second Step curriculum.

Students will use these recordings and their interpretations to generate expressive animations that will accompany the soundtrack they produced with their field recordings. They will learn how to show feelings with the Elements and Principles of Visual Design and match these appropriately to their recordings.

Disney Magnet School

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Students will explore the history of Chicago, their own history, and how the arts are intertwined with the past by learning about the neighborhoods they come from through the filter of the musicians, artists, and dancers that came from those neighborhoods. Students will be researching their neighborhoods by collecting visual and audio samples from their neighborhoods, and incorporating them into the final project.

Innovations High School

The big picture for us falls under the theme of “Self-Transformation,” and how life is and has a series of transformations over the extent of its course.  I will be teaching Joseph Campbell’s Hero Cycle as a metaphor/model for students’ to self-reflect on own hero’s journeys. They will choose a hero cycle from their recent past and explore how their choices affected their ability to transform. They will write a personal narrative that tells this story. Then, I will teach them how to transform their narratives into a poem/lyrics.  Avo will then take over. Four students will be selected to turn their writing into a song. All students will be grouped together with one of the selected writings (4 groups total). Avo will teach each group how to develop a song from the writing using Garage Band or another music app.  Groups will eventually record their songs in our studio under Avo’s guidance. Mrs. Lewis’ art students will collaborate with my student groups in the development of album covers for each song. The album covers will also embrace the big picture theme of “transformation.”

Jahn School of the Fine Arts

Beginning with the CSO theme of “Reflecting on Challenges,” 4th grade students will study Chicago’s history and create a timeline citing the following events: Fort Dearborn 1803, the Chicago Fire 1871, the Columbian Exposition 1893, the Century of Progress 1933, Civil Rights Era 1960s, Birth of hip Hop 1970s, War on Drugs 1980s, and present Day Chicago. Students will analyze how the city changed as a result of each event and fill in a packet to keep track of their timeline. Students will visit the Chicago History Museum and see exhibits relative to these events as well as the exhibit on Chicago’s music history. In dance, they will begin to create visual tableau that reflect scenes from these historic events.

Through a variety of sources such as texts, recordings, and images, students will study the various perspectives on each of the events. Considering the theme of “Respond and Make Choices,” students will address the essential question “What Obstacles do people face?” We will examine how each event affected or contributed to racial segregation and how these experiences connect to both the diversity and the separation in our city today.

In music class, students will study the birth and origins of Hip Hop where they will study the genre as a reaction to systemic oppression. They will connect hip hop with events of the past by creating/writing a rap that reflects on Chicago’s history and their own individual Chicago experiences. In addition to writing their own rap, students will learn hip-hop composition techniques such as sampling, looping, and beat construction. As we “remix to create change,” Students will study Florence Price’s Symphony No. 3 and select specific excerpts to sample – Civic musicians will be utilized to help loop the excerpts in their compositions.

Pickard Elementary School 2nd grade

Our unit will be “Changing Communities”. The Essential question is: Does where you live effect how you live? In this unit, students will explore through research how their neighborhood has changed over the last century. This research will connect directly to the ideas that will be explored during the Flash Back, Flash Forward CSO School Concert with a specific focus on the music of Florence Price and George Gershwin.  Students will learn the history of their neighborhood with activities such as timelines, researching biographies and the history of Pilsen, as well as what it means to be a good citizen in their community. Students will be exposed to different types of music that connect to the changes in Pilsen from Czech to Mexican banda music. Students will create art pieces that represent different types of communities (rural, urban, and suburban). Students will also write 12 bar blues songs (with a Latin twist) that contain lyrics that flash back and flash forward to express the changes they understand about their community (family, school, neighborhoods), while making connections to the events that have changed the history of their community (migrations, music trends, gentrification).

Pickard Elementary School 6th grade

We have a couple of “big ideas.”  We have decided to incorporate water and its many facets because of how important it is to the city’s identity. The science curriculum will incorporate a water unit in order to build on student’s knowledge of the subject.  Our other big idea is “messaging/communication/sounds”.  We will attempt to incorporate this several ways.  For a writing unit, students will be creating their own poetry using the theme of Chicago. Throughout the year in Reading and Social Studies, students will learn about the importance of waterways throughout ancient civilizations, as well as Chicago history.  Musically, students will be experimenting with rhythms based on the Morse code. Using the concept of a message in a bottle, we will attempt to create our own instruments from recycled materials and using their poetry to incorporate a spoken word element to our performance.

Sawyer Elementary School

Sawyer School will focus on the big idea of transformation, connecting it to this year’s CSO theme Reflect, Respond, Remix. The first grade students will explore the transformation of characters in the stories they will read together. The second grade students will explore the idea of transformation in math, while studying the architecture of downtown Chicago. The third grade students will study transformation in Chicago’s weather and the effects of climate change on the city. In music, Avo Randruut, CSO teaching artist, will connect the themes of each grade while exploring with students the idea of musical transformation as they compose their own 12 bar blues songs.

Swift School: In the Direction of Travel

Swift School is located next to the redline tracks. Our students take buses and trains from around the neighborhood and the city to get to school. Their families are from over 50 countries. We will be exploring our students’ paths to our community and our school. Using the metaphor of a train car, our students will be composing movements in a large work combining band instruments, guitars, and civic musicians. They will create a bank of sounds representing different eras in Black Music History that will be used as samples. In social studies students will study the timeline of Black Music history as it relates to Chicago history and the Civil Rights Movement. In math, students will analyze statistics and create graphs related to the content. In art, students will be contributing to a slide show using photography and stop motion animation. Our final project will be a multi-media presentation with video and musical composition reflecting the paths of our students superimposed against the history of the city.