In January, PS 8 fourth graders and other students from around the city traveled to Lincoln Center for a beautiful performance by the world class New York Philharmonic. This Young People’s Concerts for Schools focused on Czech composer Antonin Dvorák’s 9th Symphony, “From the New World,” and featured videos of students performing their own short interpretations with lyrics they wrote themselves, including some superstar PS 8 students – Sophie, Vivian, Ian and Malia! The concert included two impressive original compositions by kids in the Very Young Composers of NY Philharmonic.
PS 8 music teacher Warren Bloom prepared students for the concert ahead of time:
The 4th grade classes had two lessons in preparation for the trip. Using the curriculum guide provided by the Philharmonic, I walked the fourth graders through Dvorák’s upbringing in Bohemia, his arrival in New York to teach at a new music school in Manhattan, and his journeys through the midwest which sparked his interest in the music of America, which he incorporated into his symphony. The Philharmonic provided a CD on which was, among many things, a 1919 recording of Dvorák’s student Harry Burleigh singing “Let My People Go,” and a recording of an Iroquoi tribute song which sounded similar to the bagpipes that Dvorák knew from Bohemian folk music, and which we recreated in class using our voices.
The Philharmonic, ledby conductor Joshua Gersen, played several excerpts from Dvorák’s 9th symphony to demonstrate the variety of storytelling techniques and musical motifs that appear in the piece. Vice President for Education at Lincoln Center and radio host, Theodore Wiprud, explained to the audience that Dvorak’s music is rooted in folk music and heavily influenced by the Czech folk music of his home country and the African American spirituals he loved. The 5-note pentatonic scale is found in folk music around the world and is used by Dvorák in the Largo movement of the 9th symphony which features the famous melody which later became “Goin’ Home” when a student of Dvorák’s added lyrics. We then had the opportunity to sing along with “Goin’ Home,” a portion of the symphony that references Dvorák’s favorite spiritual, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Mr. Wiprud explained patterns in the music, such as the use of “call & response” between instruments and layering of rhythms, which were brought to life for us by singing demonstrations from baritone Stephen Salters.
In addition, the Philharmonic performed two pieces of music from their Very Young Composers group. First, ten-year old Mariol Estrella introduced her piece “9:20” which musically tells the story of two people stuck in two different points in a rush hour traffic jam. Second, we were treated to “Coco Mango Cherry” from Very Young Composers group members, Leslie Malin and Perceaiz Cordero. The concert ended with the symphony performing the entire Largo movement from Dvorák’s 9th symphony. A great time was had by all! Thank you to PS 8 music teacher Mr. Bloom for organizing the trip and all the teachers and staff who chaperoned. What a treat!
by Lis Tamarkin (fourth grade mom)
Photo Credits to Warren Bloom