On Oct. 19, with Halloween in the air, young musicians from Santa Barbara Strings spent the afternoon making music with students from the iCAN (Incredible Children’s Art Network) after school el Sistema-inspired music immersion program at Franklin Elementary School.
More than120 students took part in performing for each other, rehearsing a new piece together and sharing their common passion for creating music.
The iCAN student musicians, who range from first to sixth grade, study general, vocal and beginning instrumental music and are being introduced to playing classical music in an orchestra setting. The Intermezzo Orchestra of Santa Barbara Strings, composed of older students ranging from seventh grade to high school, are experienced musicians with years of training on their instruments and weekly immersion in playing in string orchestras.
The directors of both music education programs thought matching these students up would be tremendous and seized the opportunity for the Santa Barbara Strings students to mentor, inspire and excite the young Franklin students.
After months of planning and amid building excitement, a capacity crowd of students, parents and family members filled the hall at Franklin School. The 90 iCAN students began the event on stage with their first- to fourth-grade choirs singing Disney and other favorite songs, and the first-graders doing their debut performance singing and dancing through each song — all conducted by teaching artist Erin McKibben.
In turn, the 30-member Intermezzo Orchestra of Santa Barbara Strings performed Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, “Jupiter,” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets and John WIlliams’ Star Wars theme conducted by Santa Barbara Strings’ artistic director, Mary Beth Woodruff.
Bringing her signature element of fun to the proceedings, Woodruff surprised the students with a duel to the death between Yoda and Darth Vader during the Star Wars piece with those characters played by Woodruff’s young sons (both aspiring musicians themselves). Each piece was introduced by Woodruff with a lively, interactive discussion of both the composer and notable musical elements found within each work.
Adam Johnston, iCAN music program director, emceed the event in English and Spanish. As the culmination of the event, the iCAN students took out their stringed instruments and each was seated with an “orchestra buddy” from Santa Barbara Strings for a joint orchestra rehearsal conducted by Woodruff and featuring work on technique and the playing and singing of an adapted Halloween-themed piece, which the combined orchestra of more than 100 students played together.
Following the music-making, the students enjoyed homemade treats brought by the iCAN parents while they had the opportunity to meet and mingle during a reception. The hope is that the relationships begun on this special day will be nurtured via future collaborations between the two music education organizations.
Santa Barbara Strings will present its Winter Concert at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 at First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance Ave. in Santa Barbara.
— Linda Stafford Burrows represents Santa Barbara Strings.