“Today is about expression and individuality,” OrchKids Artistic Director Dan Trahey told about fifty young musicians from Baltimore City Public Schools and Gilman, as they warmed up together for a morning of musical improvisation.
Watch a video about the day and hear the music by Gilman and OrchKids here.
Standing in a large circle, students from four different schools, ranging from third through ninth grade, mimicked Trahey’s sounds and patterns, created beats with their bodies and voices, and introduced themselves to the group. The exercise is called “creative connections.” Soon, they would all connect over a shared melody and create a new piece of music.
The Baltimore City Public students traveled to campus from Lockerman-Bundy Elementary, Highlandtown Elementary, and Booker T. Washington. They are all enrolled in OrchKids, a year-round program of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra (BYSO) that puts musical instruments in the hands of Baltimore kids.
Their visit to Gilman was organized by junior Nirakar Pandey as outgrowth of a Civic Engagement and Service Learninggrant he received last spring. As one of two inaugural grant recipients, Pandey was awarded $1,500 to pursue a community service program. He called his “Orchcessories,” with the goal of supplying musical accessories, such as woodwind reeds, violin strings, or brass mouthpieces, to the students enrolled in OrchKids.
A violinist with the BYSO, Pandey spent last summer working with OrchKids students at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School and was inspired to help.
“I wanted to support this cause because I believe it is important for everyone to receive a musical education if they would like to,” said Pandey, who has been playing music since the age of five. “OrchKids provides instruments and some accessories, but many of these students cannot afford the accessories.”
This year, he also wanted to show the Orchkids the place that he loves – Gilman.
They arrived by the busload on a recent Friday morning, each with an instrument in hand, and filed into Gilman’s band room. Following their “creative connections” and team building exercises, the students broke into small sectional groups. Led by Trahey, Gilman’s Middle and Upper School Band Director Peter Lander (who also serves as an OrchKids instructor), and others, the groups worked with a pre-arranged piece of music and added to it. Some students wrote words, others added “groove” or percussion, while others crafted a counter melody.
About 45 minutes later, the groups convened to play together. What they produced – an impressive eight-minute improvisational piece – was a true team creation and a piece of music that had never before been heard. After the music making, the group enjoyed a pizza lunch together.
“It was a very successful day and the enthusiasm from everyone was tremendous,” Pandey said. “I think the kids got to see a side of town that they would not have seen had it not been for this day. Many of the kids were amazed by our campus. And, I think the Gilman students got to have fun and realize how much opportunity we have here.”
Pandey plans to continue collecting musical accessories for OrchKids throughout his time at Gilman and hopes to organize something similar during his college years.