In the spring, most students on campus have their eyes on summer. Jobs and internships, camping trips and family vacations. A break from school.
But music education students Claire Glover and Cameron Coday have their eyes on lesson plans, staff-lined chalkboards and the fresh faces of the young music students they’ll one day get to lead as music educators.
That’s because they’ve spent this semester preparing for a recital with the children of El Sistema Colorado.
“We can’t wait to start our careers,” says Glover, a horn player. “Working with the students has shown us what we can expect when we become music teachers.”
Glover and clarinetist Coday invited El Sistema to send children from its after-school music program to Boulder to perform in their junior recital on April 18.
“We didn’t want to just do a performance recital,” says Coday. “We wanted to somehow incorporate music education into it.”
That meant several weeks of Friday evening rehearsals with the group, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, and a crash course in the planning, organization and leadership skills the two will need to teach music.
“The logistics have been the hardest part,” says Glover. “Driving 45 minutes to Garden Place Elementary in Denver for rehearsal, figuring out how to bus the students here for the recital. It was a good experience to understand how all that works.”
And logistics have gotten more challenging along the way. Glover says while the group of students involved started small, it began to grow as more learned about the opportunity. “No one’s forcing them to do it, and that’s what’s made them excited.”
For El Sistema’s portion of the program, Coday and Glover wanted just the right piece to fit the group and feature themselves as clarinet and horn soloists. They decided to commission a new piece from a College of Music composer.
“We wanted to find a piece that would capture the spirit of El Sistema and be appropriate for their ability level,” Glover explains. “We went to the composition seminar and asked if anyone wanted to create the piece.”
Elena Specht, a master’s student in composition who specializes in pieces for young players, volunteered.
“We went down in November and talked to the students about what they loved about music,” Glover explains. “They said it makes you feel happy, even when you’re sad. They said they liked slow rhythms and fast rhythms—and playing loud and playing soft.
“Elena took that feedback when she wrote ‘Midnight Sun,’ and it perfectly captures that feeling of finding brightness in a dark time.”
“Elena composed this amazing piece for horn and clarinet duet, with brass, woodwinds and strings as well. It’s a mixed ensemble and hard to write for, so Elena deserves all the credit in the world for creating such a beautiful piece,” Coday says.
“Midnight Sun” will be conducted by Associate Director of Bands Matthew Roeder.
The children have enjoyed learning the piece, too.
“They’ve really taken ownership over the project, and they’ve contributed to it,” Glover says.
“It’s their piece, and they want the audience to be inspired when they hear it.”
Giving the El Sistema students the chance to see a composition through from start to finish has been most rewarding for the future music teachers. “We want to give them a good performance experience and an opportunity to see what music can really do,” says Coday.
In an effort to capture the project start to finish, Coday and Glover are working with CU-Boulder student filmmaker Julia Ferguson on a documentary video.
“Julia is so excited to have the opportunity to work on this incredible story about these amazing children,” says Coday.