Carnegie Hall’s Link Up continues to reach more and more classrooms around the world. This elementary school music program, which pairs students with local orchestras, has now taken root in Nairobi, Kenya. English-speaking students are participating in The Orchestra Moves this year and preparing for a concert facilitated by the Art of Music Foundation. Paul Asiyo, a Link Up teacher in Kenya, answers some questions about the program below.
The schools that were chosen are government-run, and most of the students come from families with low to working class incomes. The schools have embraced the project and have provided as much assistance as possible, including rooms for the lessons and a teacher on duty to help manage the students. They have also allowed the students to be taken on small outings, including a trip to watch rehearsals by the Safaricom Youth Orchestra. The students themselves are very excited about learning music. When we gave them recorders, it was a struggle to get them to stop playing. They are resilient as well, as some have to travel a long distance to get home and are willing to stay because of the lessons.
Most of the schools do not have existing music departments. All of the equipment (recorders, stands, and pianos) has been supplied by The Art of Music Foundation, and the schools house them for us. We have three main teachers who handle two schools each, and each teacher has an assistant for each school. The lessons are treated as an extracurricular activity and occur weekly.
Since The Art of Music Foundation does not solely focus of the musical aspect of a student but rather on the student as a whole, the lessons cover more than the Link Up curriculum. They also seek to empower the students, showing them what to adhere to and what they can and should aim to attain in life, and showing them that they can be more than what society expects them to be.
The teachers are loving it! The students are amazing and grasp concepts quickly. The singing is going really well, and the students are learning the recorder at a good pace. The students are happy. You see them during the lesson as they try to grasp the concepts that are being taught, and the positivity that they have—how they push each other and correct each other—is just amazing.
Take a look into the classroom through these photos from Link Up’s inaugural year in Nairobi:
“This is one of the schools we will be teaching in. It’s a tiny school in an area called Dandora Phase 5, right next to Nairobi’s dumpsite. 300 students attend classes in this tiny space. They have a lovely music room and I know the music will really make a difference.”
—Elizabeth Njoroge, Executive Director, The Art of Music Foundation
It’s a wonderful environment—the music, the people. It’s a nice, warm, cordial relationship and you meet a whole cross-section of artists and visitors.” Dexter Oliver has been cleaning Carnegie Hall since 1986, and he’s seen it all. “I even met Kenny Rogers once,” he says. “I said to him, ‘I usually use your songs to fall asleep, but I’d better not fall asleep on the job!’
“I am responsible for ensuring the theater is properly cleaned and ready for the next performance. Sometimes I do it at night if there’s a matinée. We have a team of 18.”
For him, Carnegie Hall is literally a “dream” job. He explains: “One night I dreamt—and this is a true story—of being in a place that I’ve never been before. A week after I got the Carnegie Hall job, I looked and it was what I’d dreamt about. It was the exact place I’d seen in my dream. It’s really strange—I don’t know how to explain it.”
If you lose something in Carnegie Hall, Dexter might be the man who finds it. “I remember once it was in the middle of the winter, and somebody left their winter coat. To me it was very strange because it was a very cold day—once you’re outside, you’d realize you’d left something like that behind! I think once somebody even lost their wedding ring. The team found it, and they got it back.
“One of my favorite orchestras is Boston. Seiji Ozawa [their former music director] is an amazing guy. My family is Caribbean—I’m from Grenada—and this kind of music is not part of our culture. When I started, my family was like, ‘What kind of music is that?’ But you just lose yourself in it. I just listen to the music. Now most of the time when I’m driving, I’m listening to classical music. It’s such a wonderful art and you just have to put yourself in it and enjoy. That’s one of the things I’ve gained just working there.”
This article first appeared in Carnegie Hall: 125 Years of an Iconic Music Venue’s Most Remarkable People and Memorable Events, available at carnegiehall.org/125th_Anniversary_Magazine.
Building a successful career as a musician doesn’t necessarily mean more hours in the practice room. For Ensemble ACJW, it includes almost-weekly professional development sessions with leaders in many different fields who can inspire a path to success. One of the most recent professional development sessions featured a visit from best-selling author, marketing luminary, and popular blogger Seth Godin. Read below to find out what fellows Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington and Siwoo Kim took away from this inspiring chat. You can also visit Godin’s blog and listen to a full recording of his talk with ACJW.
Author Seth Godin’s work focuses on how to create successful careers in competitive industries. Listening to his presentation, I couldn’t help but think of a scene from The Matrix. Morpheus, an inspirational teacher and leader in the film, gives a hacker who calls himself Neo the choice to take a blue pill that would continue his disillusionment in the Matrix; or a red pill that would open his eyes to reality, challenging him to reimagine himself and his future. Godin offers a similar proposal to Ensemble ACJW musicians: Take the blue pill and pursue paths already charted by musicians both successfully and unsuccessfully, or take the red pill and venture to create something new and authentic in the competitive field of music. To put it simply, the classical music industry has more outstanding musicians than jobs. I suspect that I and my ACJW colleagues will accept Godin’s challenge and raise him one.
‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Connections, connections, connections.’ This is how Seth Godin prefaced his insightful professional development seminar. We live in an age where the previously deemed ‘unplayable’ Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is effortlessly played by 11-year-old children, and thousands of qualified musicians graduate every year from universities or conservatories. Mr. Godin encouraged us to realize that with perfection so easily accessible to the public in everyday life, people crave live, personal connections.
I hope this trend is here to stay. The ability to emote, communicate, and make live, personal connections is something that no technology today can provide, and I believe these are qualities that are at the heart of what we do as classical musicians. So, the time is now for the fellows of Ensemble ACJW and musicians all over the world to connect, connect, connect!
A large part of Ensemble ACJW’s educational work in local New York City public schools consists of Interactive Performances—assembly-style concerts during which fellows lead listening activities, demonstrations, and musical discussions to allow students a more in-depth engagement with the music being performed. In addition, fellows are each partnered with a New York City public school instrumental music teacher to help to strengthen their students’ musical skills and support the schools’ needs through creative projects and instrumental teaching. Five ACJW fellows—James Riggs (oboe), Stanislav Chernyshev (clarinet), Michael Zuber (bassoon), Jenny Ney (French horn), and Siwoo Kim (violin)—recently led an Interactive Performance at PS 21Q, where Michael Zuber is partnered with the school’s music teacher, Audrey Mullen.
Below, watch 2012-2014 ACW fellows Liam Burke (clarinet) and Laura Weiner (French horn) discuss their experiences with interactive performances at PS 21Q.
Mullen shared about the lively and positive engagement during the performance:
Being a partner school with Ensemble ACJW has given me the opportunity to bring incredibly talented musicians and professional music performances to my students at PS 21Q. As my students participate in an Interactive Performance, their brains are engaged, their souls are being nurtured, and their faces radiate their enjoyment. When working directly with a ACJW fellow partner, my students are motivated, excited, and encouraged. They begin to realize that having a career in music is an attainable dream for them.
After the performance, Ms. Mullen’s fourth-grade music students shared what they enjoyed most:
“This shows us that music is all around us in life.”
“We can see how professionals play their instruments.”
“It shows us how we can work together to make something better.”
Ms. Mullen added, “This partnership has been an exceptional experience for me, and for my students. Together, we have grown in our musical skills, our practices, and our expectations. With Ensemble ACJW, music at PS 21Q has risen to greater heights!”
In the beginning, there was Gustav Mahler. Mahler mentored the young conductor Bruno Walter, who became one of the legendary interpreters of his music. In 1943, a dashing Leonard Bernstein made his debut when he stepped onto the Carnegie Hall podium—as a last-minute substitute for an ailing Walter—to conduct the New York Philharmonic. It was one of the most famous debuts in music history, and while Bernstein didn’t conduct Mahler on that program, he went on to lead a revival of interest in the master’s music that has not lost momentum after nearly half a century.
The spirits of Mahler and Bernstein are near as we look forward to an April 16 concert that features Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop conducting a new work by Kevin Puts—co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall as part of its 125 Commissions Project—and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Alsop’s connection to Bernstein runs deep. She studied with him at Tanglewood and recently led the Weill Music Institute’s critically acclaimed production of West Side Story, for which Bernstein wrote the music. She has said of her mentor, “Bernstein taught me much more than a craft. He showed me—and the world—the enormous power of music and how it is to share it with as much of humanity as possible.”
There will be another composer-mentor-conductor family tree branching out when Mariss Jansons leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad,” on April 20. The Shostakovich-Leningrad connection begins with Jansons’s father, an assistant to conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky. One of the colossal figures of Russian music, Mravinsky led the Leningrad Philharmonic (now the St. Petersburg Philharmonic) for half a century. He was a favorite of Shostakovich and premiered six of his symphonies, including the Eighth (dedicated to Mravinsky in 1943). Latvia-born Jansons entered the Leningrad Conservatory in 1957, graduated with honors, won the 1971 International von Karajan Foundation Competition, and—two years later—was named associate conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic, working under Mravinsky. His Shostakovich connection runs deep.
Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute offers young people hands-on experience in all facets of contemporary music making through after-school programs in the Resnick Education Wing. In weekly workshops throughout the school year that range from songwriting and digital music creation to concert production, teens learn the skills needed to create, perform, and produce their own original music. They also participate in the conception and design of the programs themselves, helping them to build critical thinking and leadership skills.
To complement this initiative, WMI plans to launch a New York City–based youth ensemble next fall in which 15–20 teens (ages 14–19) come together to create a youth-led, youth-run, youth-produced musical collective. Through their work, members of the ensemble will represent a range of musical backgrounds and genres underlined by the unique perspectives of a dynamic group of artistic teens.
Four young people were recently asked to share their thoughts about these programs and what they’ve learned so far in this inaugural year.
As an artist, how would you describe yourself?
I usually characterize myself as a Brazilian-American artist who likes to explore different tastes and styles. I like rock music, and I like to play a lot of jazz—especially Brazilian jazz or Brazilian music and bossa nova. I really just like to play a lot of different genres and mix them together.
How did you learn about this program?
I found out about Carnegie Hall’s youth programs through the Concert Choir at my school. My teacher gave us the information, saying that there were these three classes at Carnegie Hall and that anyone could sign up. I thought there was a catch because I didn’t have to audition or do anything else. I just had to put my name down and say what I wanted.
Why did you start coming?
I started coming because I don’t really have an environment or a place to do my music. At home, the only place I have is my room, but someone always complains that I’m being too loud, or saying “now is not the time” or to put my headphones on. But I don’t like putting my headphones on because I like hearing it resonate in the room. I like the raw sound when it’s loud. So that’s why I come.
I am a Latina musician and composer. I was born in Spain to Ecuadorian parents, and I grew up in Connecticut. My mom is from a musical family—I am now part of the sixth generation of musicians. My parents encouraged me to play the cello when I was eight, but I’ve since found that composition and songwriting are the best ways for me to be creative.
The first time I ever came to Carnegie Hall was when my mom took me see a Yo-Yo Ma concert when I was 13. All of my teachers said to get to Carnegie Hall you have to practice, practice, practice. And now I’m here! But I also Google everything. I found WMI’s Musical Exchange website and saw that it was geared towards youth who wanted to pursue music. Then I saw a post about digital music production classes, so I signed up.
Why do you keep coming back?
It’s the perfect space to write music—a space where people are doing what they want to do. We all have similar interests, so everyone’s here supporting each other and collaborating. It’s really beneficial—not just for people who want to pursue music, but also for people who maybe don’t have creative programs in their schools. It’s a good space to be.
I would say I’m an artist looking to diversify his sound and become more versatile. When I came to Carnegie Hall, I was only good at doing one thing. Now I’m good at doing many things because of working with different people. It’s more like a team instead of everyone just coming here for themselves.
I started coming so that I could get better at my sound. I could be in my bedroom all day rapping, writing, and making beats, but once I present it to other people, I can hear their reactions and feedback. I can take that all into account so I can make myself a better artist.
Why do you keep coming back?
You become a more versatile, complete musician here. Every single week I feel like I’m getting extra experience, moving another level up.
I make hip-hop music. I write and I write—I’m often a very quiet individual. But I’m also open-minded and meet a lot of different people at Carnegie Hall who all come from different boroughs.
I started coming because I saw it as an opportunity to meet people with similar interests in music. I felt it was a good way to expand my network, and I wanted to know a lot more about the music industry itself.
I keep coming because the people here are amazing. Some of them are like family. I feel like when you come here, there’s always something productive being done. It’s good to be a part of that.
Learn more about Carnegie Hall's Youth Programs.
For the past nine years, Ensemble ACJW has traveled to Saratoga Springs, New York, for its biannual one-week residency at Skidmore College, during which the fellows offer master classes, lessons, classroom demonstrations, and performances for students, faculty, and the broader Saratoga Springs community. During the most recent residency in February, the fellows also had the opportunity to work with composer Ted Hearne before giving the world premiere of his new piece Baby (an argument) at the Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall on campus.
Ted Hearne shares his reflections on that eventful week:
I was honored to spend a lovely 10 days with Ensemble ACJW rehearsing; performing; talking about music, education, and audience engagement; and working up my new piece Baby (an argument). (And cursing myself for not bringing more warm clothes from sunny California).
Of course, I expected to encounter musicians of the highest level who were both intellectually dedicated and technically exceptional. (And of course I was not disappointed). But what I did not expect was the holistic approach to concert programming, music education, and audience engagement—and a family-like camaraderie—that seems to be a hallmark of the ACJW experience. Conversations about music and its social meanings and purposes were always springing up among the fellows, which was so refreshing.
This part of ACJW’s mission strikes me as so important: the cultivation of thinking musicians who are aware of the world around them and their capacity for good in it. Speaking to the musicians about their various educational and entrepreneurial projects, I got a strong sense of humility and commitment to ongoing reflection and improvement. I was lucky to be a part of it.
Ensemble ACJW rehearses with composer Ted Hearne. Photo by Deanna Kennett.
ACJW fellow Jenny Ney shares her experience working with the composer at Skidmore, which involved crafting a whole new instrument:
It all started when I got an e-mail saying that the piece Ted Hearne was writing for Ensemble ACJW would require that I use a bassoon reed. “A what? But I play the horn!” I asked our bassoon player, Michael, for a couple of reeds, only to find that they did not fit into my instrument. This began a series of e-mails and calls to Ted and to horn players better versed in the technique. Finally, I fit the pieces together, at which point I took a deep breath, blew into this “horsoon” contraption, and heard the most awful sound I’d ever made! But after weeks of preparation and rehearsal, I came to love the colorful sounds I could produce. The horsoon creates these gritty-sounding notes with many, many overtones, and now I’m hooked—I can’t wait for the next opportunity to perfect my new technique!
Watch Ensemble ACJW’s full concert at Skidmore College, which includes a pre-concert discussion with Associate Professor of Music at Skidmore College Jeremy Day-O’Connell, ACJW fellows Dana Kelley and Garrett Arney, and composer Ted Hearne.
Learn more about Ensemble ACJW.
“Practice, practice, practice,” might as well be a moniker for Carnegie Hall. Yet, we spend very little time talking about the physical and emotional undertaking during practice. We’re accustomed to musicians presenting us with their seemingly effortless performances instead of the struggles and reality of practicing. Here, we dive into the world of practice: Musicians of Ensemble ACJW talking honestly, and realistically, about their relationship to practicing.
Can you describe how practicing for percussionists is different than for other players?
Practicing is a weird thing for us I feel like because we have so many things to practice. I also think because of all the instruments we have, we’re all a little bit ADD.
See, if we were to practice two hours on three of our main instruments—say snare drum, marimba, timpani—you practice two hours on each, which isn’t enough time. Like no musician would only practice two hours in a day. But that’s like six hours total on three instruments, so it’s tough.
For percussionists, too, set up is a big part of practicing. Every piece has a different set up, so one of the kinds of practicing that we have to do are these things called multi set ups, or chamber music pieces that involve a lot of different instruments, like bongos and tom toms and a kick drum. So I’d have to spend, you know, 10 to 15 minutes at least putting it together or moving the instruments around so I have space to actually play. And then you have to get used to where the instruments are.
Sounds like there are a lot of different components to percussion practice.
There can be a lot of drudgery to it. It can have a real mechanical aspect to it. I don’t mean mechanical like you’re not paying attention, but it’s just stuff you have to learn and that can be work.
Right. And every instrument is different, of course, so for timpani, snare drum, and marimba, even though physically the concept of how you make the sound is the same, the sounds are all completely different and what you actually have to do technically is different. So timpani has a very large head, which has a lot of space. A snare drum is very tight and is very dry. And a marimba is made of wood. So they all have very, very different techniques, which is also hard to practice.
There is no better way to celebrate an anniversary than with a trip. And when it’s to mark 125 years, the trip must be unforgettable. To commemorate Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary, we are sending one lucky couple back to where our founder was born, the beautiful town of Dunfermline, Scotland.
The contest closes April 30, and the winner will be randomly selected on May 5, 2016—the 125th anniversary of Carnegie Hall's opening.
Though his formal name is Joseph Scott, everyone calls him “Scooter.” He’s a Carnegie Hall stagehand, and nothing happens without him and the Hall’s hard-working crew. The stagehands have a range of responsibilities that support production work in the building’s three concert halls—they move pianos, build sets and bleachers, deploy seating for orchestras, and set and operate audio equipment.
“The music is the favorite part of my job,” he says. “I used to be a bassist—I studied music and I love all kinds of music. After college, I wanted to form a band like The Crusaders, but I earned my living as an audio engineer. The love of music is really at the heart of who I am and what the job means to me.
“We show up at eight in the morning. We go to the truck, unload the stuff, and get it into the Hall. As we’re doing that, it’s our job to interface with the production crew and work out how to deploy the orchestra, if there is one. We set up the audio equipment next, the front-of-house sound if we’re recording, and a house mixing board if it’s needed.
“My best story involves Stewart Levine, the guy who produced The Crusaders. He produced one of my all-time favorite groups and he was associated with Hugh Masekela. Hugh was there performing, and Stewart had been in earlier for the sound-check. I told him how much I appreciated his work. And he said, ‘This is one of the best-sounding stages I’ve ever heard.’ To get a compliment like that from one of my musical heroes was incredible.”
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