Dist. 300 students to perform own composition in concert

 
 
Updated 1/5/2017 10:27 AM
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  • Composer-in-residence Joni Greene works with Community Unit District 300 middle school and high school students on an original musical composition that will debut during a concert 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

    Composer-in-residence Joni Greene works with Community Unit District 300 middle school and high school students on an original musical composition that will debut during a concert 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. Courtesy of Community Unit District 300

  • Joni Greene

    Joni Greene

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include concert tickets can be purchased at the door for $3.

A community concert featuring a musical composition written partly by Community Unit District 300 middle school students will debut at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

"The Dawnland," a five-movement piece, was created by composer-in-residence Joni Greene, who often is commissioned by consortia, universities, school districts and chamber ensembles, with input from students at the district's five middle schools.

It will be performed by students in the district's communitywide honors band under the direction of Dundee-Crown educator emeritus Mark Bettcher. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $3.

Greene, of Austin, Texas, has performed at international festivals and works in residence with all levels of concert band, orchestra, choir and chamber groups.

The project was funded through an $8,000 grant from the District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence.

Jake Stouffer, District 300's coordinator of fine and performing arts, said few music students have the opportunity to meet with a composer and work on a piece written specifically for them.

"A composer residency is something that occurs on many college campuses but is a rarity in the public school setting," Stouffer said.

Greene began working with the middle schoolers two years ago on creating an original piece.

In spring of 2015, district seventh-graders began writing the piece under the guidance of Greene and Carpentersville Middle School music teacher Michael Kasper.

"For weeks, I contemplated the students' ideas of what sorts of musical stories we could tell," Greene said. "I was inspired by the overwhelming desire the students had to create not just a programmatic story, but also an emotional journey."

Students wanted to explore nature or battle scenes. Using this imagery, the concept took shape during Greene's trip last summer to Acadia National Park in Mt. Desert, Maine, where she learned about the first known settlers to the area -- the Wabanaki Indians -- dating back at least 13,000 years.

In their native language, "the Wabanaki" translates to "people from the land where the sun rises" or "of the Dawnland."

"The Wabanaki had, and still do have, a deep relationship with the land and animals of their homeland, which they believed were all related," Greene said. "Their terrain was expansive with sweeping beauty and natural variety" such as rising mountains cresting beyond the clouds, a vast ocean and rocky coast, marshes with broad colors of green and yellow, and dense forests.

"It took only moments in this wilderness to imagine the sounds of these people and the serenity and austerity of their lives," Greene said.

"Student musicians often develop their own unique connection with the songs we perform," Kasper said. "This is an important outlet, a way for students to channel their emotions positively and independently. By commissioning our own piece of music, we felt they would develop an even greater, deeper connection. Instead of playing notes composed for others, our students will know this song was made to represent their emotions."

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