Last week, 45 young musicians from New Jersey to New York and Massachusetts to Toronto gathered online to make music together as friends and musicians. ESYO CHIME members and sibling trio Ciarra Miller, De'Vaughn Miller, and Da'Viaire Dehaney-Miller signed on to play and ESYO Education Manager, Alexandra Carella-Delfino logged in to facilitate a few sectional rehearsals. Ciarra, De'Vaughn, and Da'Viaire were joined by students from 8 El-Sistema-inspired programs, including the Patterson Music Project (NJ), Sistema Toronto (CAN), D'Addario Foundation-Ascente Chamber Orchestra (NY), Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program (MA), Kids 4 Harmony (MA), Project Music (CT), and INTEMPO (CT).
The gathering was hosted as part of El Sistema USA's Northeastern Seminario, a week-long music-making intensive with 2020 Artists-in-Residence, The Collective Conservatory.
The Seminario focused students on the Blues and used ASCAP Award-winning composer Omar Thompson's Sharp Nine and the 12 bar blues to boost their performance on their instruments, teach new skills, and stir up the creativity inside each student.
"This week has been an interesting one. I attended this program last year and I had a great time. This week so far has been educational and I’ve learned a lot about the blues considering I haven’t looked into the blues before. I’ve had a great time learning and experiencing new things with others," said De'Vaughn.
"How is everyone today? We'd love to hear what you've been working on." As student's logged on, they were greeted by The Collective Conservatory (TCC) co-founder Dan Trahey a hip Tuba player from Baltimore who connected with the students as if he were a DJ/producer. TCC teaching artist/conductor Armand Hall led large-group zoom rehearsals. With the help of a playback track streamed LIVE online, each young musician muted their microphone, played along with the playback track, recorded their performance on their cellphone or tablet, and submitted their recording for review. Throughout the session, students and teachers seamlessly entered and exited virtual rehearsal rooms and sectional practice rooms, as if they were rehearsing together in-person.
"Awesome Valerie! I saw you practicing on mute, fantastic work." While in the sectional practice rooms, students eagerly "woodshedded" their part, learned something new, and earned plenty of praise from sectional coaches like ESYO's own, Alexandra Carella-Delfino.
"Franceso that's awesome! Let's get it recorded. I'd love you to do a solo for this. On Thursday, the sections polished up their assigned parts, improvised their solo's, created new sections for the final recording, and shared their performance with the section. By the end of the week, Ciarra, De'Vaughn, and Da'Viaire learned the basics of the blues, including its structure, riffs, rhythms, and history, all while jamming and improvising together.
"Blues Music is life music."- Thornetta Davis
The Queen of Detriot Blues, Thornetta Davis dropped by on Thursday to talk with students about her experiences as a professional blues singer and what the blues means to her. Davis's career, which began in 1987, started as a hobby and evolved into a successful recording career that included performances with Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, and jazz icon Etta James. She shared her belief that we all have the Blues in us and that the origins of blues originated from the "blood, sweat, and tears of slaves in the fields," across America. Soon after, Thornetta sang her newest single, "I Believe" and got students singing their blues and playing before returning to the sectional practice rooms to write and record their own blues tune.
All the music performed and composed by Ciarra, De'Vaughn, and Da'Viaire, as well as all the young musicians who participated in El-Sistema's Regional Seminario, is to be released online at a drop party later this month.