Chicago kids take center stage with CSO help

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Chicago elementary schools teamed up with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Wednesday, performing student-composed music with the help of Civic Orchestra fellows. (WLS)

Chicago elementary schools teamed up with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Wednesday, performing student-composed music with the help of Civic Orchestra fellows. This concert is part of the CSO-Connect program, during which Civic Orchestra musicians made multiple visits to seven city schools-Agassiz Elementary, DeWitt Clinton Elementary School Walt Disney Magnet Elementary School, Richard Edwards Elementary School, Pickard Elementary School, Sidney Sawyer Elementary School, and George B. Swift Specialty School.

"They love what they do so much. When they came in... there's that energy and a connection to that that the kids were immediately drawn into," said Disney Magnet School General Music Teacher Emily Dunne.

"They have the expertise and the knowledge about music to help re-frame the kids' thinking about their compositions and say 'well music doesn't have to be all soft. It can be soft and then loud and then soft,'" added Swift teacher Angela Maniaci.

Teachers met with the fellows to brainstorm lesson plans and then the students shared their composition ideas.

"We're on the same playing field. I think that made them feel really comfortable sharing and coming up with just little ideas here and there," said Civic Orchestra Trumpet Player Alex Schwarz.

The result for swift students: a piece on deforestation.

"The beginning is going to be soft where the trees are going to be cut down by deforestation," explained seventh grader Ayman Haseeb, adding "then in the middle, the trucks are coming in and taking the trees away so it's going to be a loud and rumbling sound."

All performances focused on the theme of empathy. Each class took a unique approach, while learning the same lessons.

"Music without words can tell a much larger story than music with words sometimes," said Disney eighth grader Ianece Coleman.

She and her classmates put on an elaborate show about the evolution of music with scene changes and dancing.

"They've done a really good job of stepping into other people's shoes and trying to make themselves more knowledgeable about other cultures and other parts of the world. And if they can also get the experience of incredible music and tying that into their life, that's such an incredible opportunity that most schools never get," said Dunne.

The Civic Orchestra has been working with these schools for three years. CSO is now accepting applications for more schools looking to work with these professionals, encouraging the next generation of musicians to flex their creativity.
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