Melrose Public Schools orchestra students from the third through the 12th grade have begun a unique project: They are learning about music and composition from composer-in-residence Robert J. Bradshaw and will collaborate with him on an original piece to be played at the end of next school year.
Bradshaw has already met with the students in the Melrose Youth Orchestra and the high school and middle school orchestras, according to orchestra teacher Luke Miller. “He was able to share experiences with the classes, what music means to him, and the various places he has found inspiration for pieces he has written,” said Miller. “He talked about picking up rhythms from the windshield wipers on a car or hearing the beat and the rhythms that come from your steps when you’re walking down the street and the rhythm comes with your steps. He encouraged the students to listen around them and hear music in their lives, and to find a melody or another way to contribute to the project.”
Bradshaw will meet with the students three more times over the course of this school year to expand on these ideas and talk about how a musical composition is put together. “The next one is focused on the nuts and bolts of music theory, giving the students the tools they need to write their own music and go from an idea in their head to notes on paper,” Miller said.
At the end of the school year, Bradshaw will gather up the students’ submissions and work them into four orchestral pieces—one each for the youth, middle school, and high school orchestras, as well as a grand finale for all of the orchestras combined. They will rehearse it over the next school year and perform it at the May 2018 spring concert.
“It’s all meant to celebrate the 100th year of the Melrose Symphony Orchestra,” Miller said. “The MSO isn’t playing this piece, but I put together the project as a way to raise awareness of orchestra music in Melrose and get the families and the other students in the schools excited about orchestra music in a different way—by more directly connecting it to their lives.”
A huge thank you to the Melrose Cultural Council, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Melrose Education Foundation, Messina Fund for the Arts, and the Victoria McLaughlin Foundation for their generous support and funding to help make this project a reality!