Developing Relationships with Future Leaders: Reflecting on Fellows’ Activities from February 27 to March 12, 2019.

Early March was a whirlwind of activity for the Civic Fellows. Sara Lee and Rex Horan, who helped guide us through our Purpose Over Pain project last December, joined us once again to work with members of the youth leadership group known as B.R.A.V.E. as well as young men from Illinois Youth Center-Chicago (IYCC). Half the Fellows worked with B.R.A.V.E. while the rest were at IYCC.

B.R.A.V.E., which stands for “Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere” is a program for youths aged 6-24 committed to fighting the pernicious gun violence problem in our city and the nation as a whole. They have engaged in a wide variety of advocacy activities and demonstrations, including the high profile shutdown of the Dan Ryan Expressway last summer. We worked with several members of this group who were high-school-aged and in many cases had never before played an instrument. Over the course of four 90-minute sessions, the young people and fellows developed and rehearsed four songs (with expert guidance from Sara and Rex) that were performed at St. Sabina Church on Saturday, March 2. Many of the kids were shy at first and timid about playing an instrument or singing, but they all came out of their shells and rose to the challenge quite brilliantly. One young lady, Aaminah, was working with our bassist, Joe Bauer, was so excited and intrigued by her experience playing bass that she is now looking to buy her own!

The rest of the fellows engaged in a similar project, but in a notably different environment, IYCC, which is a medium security correctional facility for adolescent males. The fellows worked with 14-17 year old members of what is known as the “honor dorm.” These are young men who have shown exceptionally good behavior within the facility. Much like the B.R.A.V.E. group, these young men were at first uncertain and timid about playing an instrument. “Everyone had to be vulnerable with everyone else,” was how Civic Fellow and flute Alex Hoffman described the collective feeling at the onset of the project. They eventually opened up and were able to tap into a vein of deep creativity, resulting in eight original songs for their culminating performance on Saturday, March 9. Because of the incredible progress made by these budding musicians as well as the depths of the relationships built with them, Alex described how difficult it was for her to have to leave at the conclusion of the week-long residency at the facility. Heightened emotions aside, it is clear that the fellows’ work with the young men of IYCC had a positive impact on their lives.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to keep us fellows busy, we also have been continuing our CSO-Connect performances at various CPS schools throughout the city. It has been very exciting to observe the evolution of our performance and activities over the past three months! In addition, we have continued our collaboration with the experimental performance collective, Mocrep, which will culminate in a collaborative performance. We were all quite excited to be challenged artistically by this performance and the rehearsals leading up to it. Finally, many of us took part in a performance with the entire Civic Orchestra at the South Shore Cultural Center on Sunday, March 10th under the direction of CSO Principal Trombone Jay Friedman.

The Civic Orchestra under the direction CSO Principal Trombone and Civic alumnus Jay Friedman perform works by Wagner at Chicago’s historic South Shore Cultural Center, March 11, 2019.

This pace of activity has been exhilarating for all of us and we look forward to continuing our season with the help of large quantities of coffee…

By Civic Fellow and trumpet Dan Price.

TOP: Civic Fellows, CSO Guest Teaching Artists, and B.R.A.V.E. Youth Leaders pose for a photo after the March 2019 performance.