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District Hosts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Students playing the Cello

The Mount Vernon City School District hosted special visitors on November 6 and 7, 2019. A string quartet and professional workshop leader/composer from London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra came to the Nellie A. Thornton School for the Performing Arts to work with the school’s young musicians.

Together they created and performed melodies and original pieces of music, inspired by the themes of the school’s program: civil rights; art as a weapon; and/or art for art’s sake. The band and orchestra students devised and performed brand new pieces of music before the entire school body on Nov. 7.

Representatives from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) worked in workshops with the band students on Nov. 6 and the orchestra students on Nov. 7, teaching them how to create and play original music by ear, listening and memorizing, rather than reading sheet music.

The RPO had performed at a benefit in New York earlier in the week and came to Mount Vernon as part of RPO Resound, its groundbreaking and award-winning Community and Education program.

“We’ve got these great musicians; we like to use them as a resource,” said Lisa Rodio, the RPO’s Community and Education Project Manager. “We give participants access to professionals so they can be inspired and learn the technical part of the craft, but also to think about music in a different way. For us, it’s important that people feel ownership of music, and one way of doing this is by supporting them to create and perform their own pieces alongside our world-class musicians.”

Mount Vernon was afforded the opportunity of the visit because of its relationship with its computer and media networking vendor, Custom Computer Specialists of Hauppauge, N.Y. A representative with Custom Computer Specialists, which sponsored the visit, offered the opportunity to Joe McGrath, the district’s Standards Administrator for Technology.

“In building an authentic visual and performing arts program we have to expose children to professionals in these arenas,” said Dr. Evelyn Collins, Principal of Thornton School for the Performing Arts. “So, they see where the possibilities are for them. When we bring in a company from Africa, or we bring in a company from London or we bring in a company from the city they see the possibilities for themselves as professionals.”

The workshops and the culminating performance were led by Paul Griffiths, an internationally renowned music educationalist. Griffiths improvised and had the students follow him, and when they were done, the students were able to perform original concert pieces.

“All performing arts is about the body, it’s about your breath,” he said, inspiring the audience of students of the Thornton School for the Performing Arts before the concert. “Whether you are an actor or a singer or a poet or a musician. At the end of the day it’s all about this thing that we have inside and the way we use it.”

“I am overwhelmed with pride to see my students on this stage,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton at the concert. “This is further evidence of how important music is for our students and for how important it is for our students to embrace what music represents in our culture.”

About the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1946 with the aim of bringing world-class music to communities around the UK and abroad. In addition to performing more than 190 concerts per year, RPO Resound, the Orchestra’s award-winning community and education programme, brings the transformative power of music to communities the Orchestra serves, providing inspiring musical experiences in a range of settings from prisons to primary schools and beyond. Each project is bespoke and delivered in collaboration with local partners to meet expressed needs and achieve artistic, social and personal aims, including improving participants’ aspirations, abilities and life chances.

  More Pictures

  Video of the Performance