In the Art of the Small Ensemble class offered by GRoW @ The Wallis, we not only learned how to combine two different kinds of music–Classical and Jazz–and learned how to work in a small group of musicians, but we also explored many different roles of music in the arts–from musician, performer and recording artist; to collaborator and even audience member. These roles and their respective skillsets opened my eyes and gave me the courage to go into my community and share my passion for the arts–which is just like the mission of GRoW @ The Wallis!
In 2016, I created Musical Traces, a chamber music series comprised of young classically trained artists that Play Aloud. Our Play Aloud series presents music in a similar manner as storytelling–instead of reading aloud, musicians are playing aloud. Musical Traces began at the Little Tokyo Library in Downtown Los Angeles, our first community partnership, in order to allow chamber music groups to perform for and collaborate with the community. The concerts are created to introduce and engage people of all ages to the world of art and music. One of my favorite Play Aloud collaborations started with a chance meeting at the Colburn School library. I met a trombonist and his group with a silly name, Skinny Lips and the Sound Malfunction (SLSM). They have some very interesting and entertaining education shows! Check out their animated teaser from their musical story Pup n’ Swine.
I attended a workshop SLSM hosted for their newest show called WAVES, a story about Sound and Silence and the games they play. WAVES is told alongside an original music score of a theme and variations that explores the vocabulary of sound/music. The musical vocabulary presented in WAVES includes pitch, dynamics, tempo, meter, articulations, mood, and technique–which all work together to give young audiences the essential music literacy. Upon watching SLSM’s presentation, I was immediately interested in this show and excited to use the collective skills and knowledge of music and art I learned through The Colburn Community School of Performing Arts and a visual arts program called Ryman Arts. Since I had already formed a partnership with the Little Tokyo Branch Library, I convinced the children’s librarian to allow SLSM to present WAVES to the library’s preschool storytime!!
As an alumna of Ryman Arts, I wanted to figure out a way to use my art skills alongside SLSM’s musical project. I wanted to collaborate with these professional musicians, enhance their show, and reach a new audience. In fact, we were able to engage a really new audience – three to six year olds, and over a hundred of them too! My friend Bradford, who was also a Ryman student, and I created a mural from scratch that illustrated a hypothetical place called “Musicland,” the world of the WAVES characters Sound and Silence! We enlarged the original mural to 3’x18’, so each preschooler had one piece of paper–one ‘tile’–of the mural. The day of the presentation, each child was able to color their tile based on what they heard and experienced. After this fast one-hour presentation and arts and craft event, SLSM, Bradford, and I put all the beautifully colored tiles together to create the original mural–much like the collaborative contributions of chamber music! The young groups’ hard work and fun resulted in the WAVES mural, a collaborative memory of our trip to Musicland, which was on exhibit at the Tokyo Branch Library from November 16, 2016 through February 15th, 2017. Recognizing the value of what we had created as musician, artist, and student/youth group, we documented the effort into a fun submission piece for the 2017 Congressional District Art Competition! It was during and after completing this WAVES project that I took the Art of the Small Ensemble class at the Wallis. After participating in this class, I knew I would have to come back to collaborate and GRoW at The Wallis, and continue to work on leaving my very own Musical Traces in my community. I am profoundly thankful for The Wallis not only inspiring me to create, but also for providing me with the supportive platform that is essential to do so.
About the Iconic Sounds Event:
Iconic Sounds is an event that explores and develops a child’s creative imagination through the collaboration of musicians and artists.
WAVES is a piece of music created to explore HOW to listen to music through storytelling. In the program, we created sounds to connect music to one’s imagination. In this session at the Little Tokyo Branch library, SLSM covered the variations of dynamics “loud and soft” and tempos “high and low” through an interactive music performance.
WAVES mural is dedicated to the co-creators of “Musicland”–Sound and Silence. And…special acknowledgment goes to Sound for magically dividing itself into two inhabitants: THIS SOUND and THAT SOUND, right before our ears! By rethinking musical education and the visual storyboard experience, co-directors Bradford Ellzey (Ryman Arts Student) and Kaitlin Webster-Zuber (Ryman Arts Alumni—visit rymanarts.org) previsualized SLSM’s imaginative waves to “Musicland” to create a mural for this most excellent performance. The mural WAVES illustrates a stirring adventure about musical sounds!
During our journey in “Musicland,” the four SLSM trombonist-storyplayers “played aloud” some of the most iconic musical sounds of the land!! We explored “Dynamics Hall,” where THIS SOUND and THAT SOUND played the musical game of “loud like hooray” and “soft like Shhooshy”. Secondly, we all rode on musical waves to Pitch Beach. There, we caught the high-note waves with THIS SOUND and surfed the low-note waves with THAT SOUND.