A generation of creative collaborators: Chicago Interim trip

In the spring during Westridge’s experiential Interim week, 39 Chamber Orchestra students were featured as the artists-in-residence at Baker Demonstration School, an independent coeducational elementary school in Wilmette, IL.
The goal was for the two schools to work together to create original music compositions. Leo Kitajima, Westridge Middle and Upper School orchestra teacher, conceptualized the program with Jamee Guerra, a music teacher at Baker. Kitajima wanted to create a long-term project using storytelling, where the students would interact over an extended period of time to write music.
The process was this: in the fall, each grade at Baker Demonstration chose a fairytale from which they wanted scenes to be reenacted. They then worked with members of the Westridge Upper School Chamber Orchestra to score music that could accompany them. While many of the Baker Demonstration students did not play musical instruments, they shared their ideas by humming or singing melodies on video and then posted them in Google Docs. The Upper School Orchestra students watched and listened, creatively crafting ways to translate the ideas into compositions, then responded with their own video interpretations.
During the Interim residency week in Chicago, students spent the week rehearsing and reworking their fairytale skits and music compositions and then performed them live for the parent and faculty/staff community on the final day. The Chamber Orchestra also performed an original composition by Kitajima that featured the Chamber Orchestra and a Baker Demonstration School percussion ensemble and hand bell choir.
“I was surprised by how finessed the music and performance was, how much the girls did everything on their own and had that kind of independence. Their leadership was visible, was present in the room,” Kitajima said. “You know a project works when it exceeds your expectations.”

Does your school do something similar?

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