After enjoying a wonderful concert by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, I grabbed my cello and headed out to the alley, where food trucks and SWAN students were waiting. LSO kindly welcomed our students to give an after-concert performance for the guests while they socialized.
The performance began with SWAN teacher Allan Dutton leading our students in an improv drum circle. The group displayed excellent collaboration in a synchronized, recurring rhythm. Jaymeir – a long-time SWAN student and exceptional drummer – created intricate and catchy counter-rhythms that mixed perfectly with the group ostinato. Every one greatly enjoyed this time of collaboration, and we even welcomed a few audience members to join us!
In the weeks following this performance, I asked my students in class about their favorite part of the performance. The resounding majority named this time of creating new music with one another. Ryan, a Hamilton Elementary Student and frequent creator of excellent grooves and rhythms said he loved the drumming best. It was a joy to see him share his love and gift for drumming with others. He helped create the ostinato rhythms, and his creations were both musical and followable for the group. Seeing a student shine and step into a leadership role lifted my spirits.
I was unaware of this then, but before the performance, Program Director Brooke Beazley asked two students – siblings Marciel and Jennifer – how they felt. They admitted they didn’t feel comfortable performing. Marciel has been taking cello lessons, and Jennifer has been learning the violin. They performed in last summer’s performances by singing with a group. This would be their first performance on their string instruments.
Brooke reassured them of the performance’s relaxed nature and encouraged Marciel to join the drumming circle, which he did. I had no idea the courage it had taken Marciel to join the drum circle, but he collaborated so well with the others and shone.
Following the drumming session, students showcased their private lesson material on piano, drums, and strings. As a string player myself, I especially loved watching our students, Logan and Alex, play their violin and viola music. As I listened, I thought back to last summer when they picked up their instruments for the very first time. To see the progress they have made creates a feeling nothing can quite describe. Kerry Broadley, their teacher and my mentor in music education, beamed such a big smile as she encouraged Logan and Alex and played duets with them. Her incredible guidance and wisdom in teaching these boys how to play string instruments are inspiring, and this concert showed the distance she’s walked with them.
While the audience enjoyed more solo performances, Kerry and I prepared all the string students for our group piece. We were a whirlwind of instruments, bows, shoulder rests, and music stands! Marciel and I got out our cellos, and I asked him how he was feeling. He had gathered some of his confidence and gave me a brave answer: he was ready. Kerry led us in a brief rehearsal before ending the program with our piece.
Despite their nerves, Marciel and Jennifer got up in front of the audience and played the piece very well, adding so much to the performance. In ensemble work, each part brings so much to the group; our ensemble would not have been the same without them. Their grandfather, who had driven them to the performance, was thrilled to see them perform. As he videoed the string piece, he captured a memory of their bravery and hard work. I hope this memory will be cherished and turned to for future courage by these outstanding students, as I know I’ll cherish them in my memory.
By: Sarah Ziegler