Collaboration between students, symphony teaches composition and performance skills
- NC Raine | May 08, 2018
Members of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra are accustomed to performing the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert, but this week, they're celebrating the sounds and art created by students from St. Mary's Wellness and Education Centre.
An afternoon performance from students on May 3rd celebrated the collaborative journey between the grade five to seven students at St. Mary's, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO), and Canadian classical ensemble the Gryphon Trio. Since last October, a mentorship program called Kitohcikewin/Listen Up! (Cree for 'making music') enabled St. Mary's students to exercise their artistic abilities in four areas: writing poetry and lyrics; merging words with music; visual art; and choral performance.
“We wanted it student lead and focused on creation, so they could make their own decision about writing lyrics or melodies,” Mark Turner, Executive Director of the SSO, told Eagle Feather News.
Turner explained the students were able to collaborate and learn from a wide range of artists, including composers, poets, visual artists, and musicians. All of pieces performed comprise of melodies and lyrics written by the students, which were then workshopped by the composers.
“Each student is able to have their own thing. Some loved the visual art, some loved writing melodies, some loved the poetry. That's what was great about it – it created this little creative community where it didn't matter if you weren't strong [in a certain area], your strengths showed through,” said Turner.
Much of the content created was guided or inspired by First Nations elders and knowledge keepers, as well as the school's Catholic School Community Council, who played an active role throughout the process.
“We wanted the art, music, and lyrics to reflect our community and the community at St. Mary's. We wanted to ensure elders were included and we focused on themes based on what the discussed,” said Turner.
“There's nothing quite like this, that allows the students to have a First Nation focus in (any other) music program, which is why we let them be the creative force behind it.”
Katrina Sawchuk, Principal at St. Mary's, said the creative license given to the students helped keep them keenly engaged.
“Students would get excited to learn, to participate in something different,” said Sawchuk. “To them, it wasn't about learning to read or write or curricular outcomes, it was about creating something they could be proud of.”
The performance featured songs created throughout the process, all student-titled, including Strong Woman – Sohski Iskwew, Red Willow She Bends, and If I Had a Feather. A repeat performance ran in the evening so the students could share their artwork, poetry, and music with their families and the community.