Students at John Adams turned composers last week when they performed their own original music at a public concert to celebrate Black History Month.
The compositions were the result of their annual one-week “Creative Connections” workshop, part of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Sympatico music program at the school. During the workshop, outside teaching artists — who are specially trained to help children creatively explore and express stories, ideas and emotions through music — came to work alongside Sympatico faculty and students. Together they guided the students in composing original works around the theme, “A World of Dreams,” ranging from chorus and fiddle music to music for a bucket band and glockenspiel.
The ASO Sympatico program uses intensive music instruction and frequent performances as a way of improving academic performance, school attendance and fostering important life skills. Launched in fall 2014, the program has grown steadily, with 130 participants this school year.
Students have the option of joining one of six musical ensembles that rehearse every day before and after school. Each ensemble is taught by a John Adams teacher who, because of their daily interaction with ASO Sympatico participants, have developed close relationships with the students and their families. There is no cost to families for participating and no prerequisites for enrolling. ASO Sympatico serves students of all abilities, musical and otherwise, as well as those with special needs.
Fifth grader Yosias Surafel joined ASO Sympatico as a first grader and was immediately drawn to the bucket band. He was one of the students who played their original composition, along with the solo he composed for himself, as part of The Percussion Experience ensemble.
I felt like I did something important. I made a piece of music with my friends. Not many people get to play music to the whole school. It felt like something really special,” said Yosias.
ASO Sympatico, run by John Adams teacher Kyle Tilman, allows students opportunities to explore music through six ensembles: Cantamos (chorus), The Percussion Experience (bucket band), XyloKids (beginning mallet instruments), The Mallet Machine (intermediate mallets), The Fiddle Factory (strings), and a new brass ensemble for third graders, Horns a Plenty.
Students in the program show more focus, increased leadership skills, higher school attendance and stronger ability to work in groups. And, it fills an important need in the John Adams community where many parents work multiple jobs. With both morning and afternoon ensembles, Sympatico alleviates the need for additional childcare for many families,” said ASO Sympatico Program Director Kyle Tillman.
Last year the ensembles performed in more than 20 public performances, including at the Torpedo Factory, First Thursday in Del Ray, the George Washington Masonic Memorial and at Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.’s vision session in February. For the past two years, Cantamos has performed at the annual event honoring the National Teacher of the Year and the State Teachers of the Year.