We’re taking Rutter on the road

Posted on Apr 1, 2018 by

As part of our U.S. Venture Masterworks Series, newVoices and the Fox Valley Symphony are holding a series of workshops for area youth to coincide with the April 28 performance. The workshops are funded by a grant from the Community Foundation

Dan Van Sickle and Jennifer Hodges Bryan lead a workshop at Youth Go in Neenah with singers from newVoices and instrumentalists from the Fox Valley Symphony. The workshop was prior to the performance of the 2017 masterwork.

for the Fox Valley Region and will take place April 3-12 at Valley area locations. The programs combine active learning with live demonstrations to show how classical music can be a catalyst for discussion and an instrument of relevant communication.

Educators from both organizations have been working to identify youth groups and create a customized program that makes the masterwork relevant to teens and their lives today. Programming was created and presented by:
Dan Van Sickle, newVoices associate conductor and Appleton East High School choral music educator
Jennifer Hodges Bryan, Fox Valley Symphony principal oboist and private music teacher
Here are excerpts from a recent discussion with Associate Conductor Dan Van Sickle.

nV (newVoices): What will workshops focus on?
DVS (Dan Van Sickle): We want to present this music in a way that make it relevant to their lives. We can show how a piece of music that’s 40 minutes long based on ancient texts is relevant in dealing with grief and loss today. Rutter wrote the “Requiem” as a memorial to his father. We want to use the music as a tool to help kids discuss what to do in life when you’re sad, or experiencing a loss. Workshops will present segments of John Rutter’s “Requiem,” with singers and instrumentalists, but we’ll also use recordings of the music to give kids the impact of a full chorus and symphony. We’ll break into smaller groups and use guided writing exercises and small group discussion to help kids examine how to deal with grief and loss constructively

nV: How are you going to use the “Requiem” music as an example?
DVS: Rutter wrote the “Requiem” with thematic variations of darkness and light—some of the music is scary and foreboding, but right afterwards it is light and joyful. We’ll use that as a jumping off point to parallel the feelings all of us have in our lives, especially teens

nV: Why is it important to reach teens with classical music?
DVS: There’s a ton of music that talks about loss—listen to any country song or hip-hop piece and it’s a reaction to a human experience. Part of the reason any song exists is because someone is sharing how they feel. For adolescents who have never had an interaction with live, high quality music in a concert setting, this is an opportunity to show them another positive outlet for an emotional response. In some ways that’s the reason we as adults perform this music, too–it’s a collective emotional catharsis.

nV: Some kids might think classical music and composers are old and moldy. How do you get past that?
DVS: By reminding them that people who are old and moldy felt the same way we do now and human experience and emotional context transcends time. When you get down to it you still want to feel supported, loved, and that people in our community hear us. Just because there’s Latin text and symphonic instruments doesn’t mean the music is irrelevant to teenagers. The music communicates a universality of comfort, and the essential message of the Requiem is that we all need to feel at rest.

nV: What happens after the workshops?
DVS: Part of our goal is to create follow up possibilities. We’re asking the kids to consider how they honor people who have been important in their lives. We’re asking them to think of people who are important to them and maybe create a song, a poem, or even have a conversation. Not every memorial has to be as grand and bold as the “Requiem,” but any memorial is just as important.

Workshops will be held after school at the following locations:

  • April 3, Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley, Appleton
  • April 4, Boys & Girls Club of Wilson Middle School, Appleton
  • April 5, Boys & Girls Club of Kaleidoscope Academy, Appleton
  • April 6, Youth Go, Neenah
  • April 12, Boys & Girls Club of Menasha

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