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CHIME students amplify their voices with composer Adrian Gordon for student-led composition

Through the Amplify Our Voice initiative, students learn to process emotion into creation

Photo: Adrian Gordon speaking to CHIME Proctors students on March 13, 2023.

The kids are alright, and students in ESYO’s CHIME program are leading the way. 

CHIME youth across all three locations are participating in the Amplify Our Voice initiative, which offers them a powerful vehicle to process emotion, explore shared experiences, and “amplify” their voices to the world. Annually, through reflection, improvisation, and experimentation, CHIME youth create an original, multi-level composition in collaboration with a guest arranger. The culminating original work is premiered to the community at the conclusion of the CHIME season. This year’s world premiere performance is set for Friday, May 19 at Schenectady High School. 

Each year, the students choose a theme. Last year’s was “Stand Tall” (read more here), and this year’s is “Stop Violence, Show Kindness.” Once the theme is chosen, they improvise and create musical motifs based on that topic, which are then turned into a more developed piece by the artist-in-residence. This year, that artist-in-residence is South Carolina-based composer Adrian Gordon.

Gordon has been no stranger to CHIME this year – students performed his piece “A Hero’s Journey” in the fall, and he has been collaborating with them virtually throughout the year. This March, in between snowstorms, Gordon visited all three CHIME sites and played for students what he had created so far and listened to their feedback about the draft.

“It has been fantastic working with all of the students so far,” said Gordon. “I have been able to meet with each site in small groups to talk to them about their ideas about the theme and composition in general. The students are extremely thoughtful and have a lot of great ideas. I have really enjoyed my time with them so far!”

When asked what the differences are between coaching the students through an already-composed piece and facilitating a brand-new work, Gordon said the process this fall with "A Hero's Journey" “was centered more around interpretation, style, and overall taste. The compositional process this time around has been a lot more focused on imagery, mood, and inclusion of all voices into the process.”

CHIME’s AOV places youth in the driver's seat, and opens the door to limitless innovation, and organic, creative expression. Its ripple effect fundamentally changes the traditional youth orchestra paradigm. By empowering youth to exert personal influence over musical style, we can transform the traditional music education system into one that is culturally responsive, relevant and equitable. AOV offers youth not only instruction to master an instrument, but the opportunity to create through that instrument, to layer their artistic and experimental voice atop those who have preceded them, and to break new ground for others to follow in their footsteps.