Fifth Graders Perform Original Songs As Part Of Los Angeles Master Chorale's Voices Within Program

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Fifth graders from Plasencia Elementary School and Compton Avenue Elementary STEAM Academy can now call themselves budding composers and songwriters, thanks to participation in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Voices Within program. The fall series of Voices Within concerts featuring students performing songs they have written will take place on Friday, December 13, 2019 at 9:30am at Plasencia Elementary School and Tuesday December 17, 2019 at 9:30am at Compton Avenue Elementary STEAM Academy.

The concerts are the culmination of the 12-week Voices Within residency program that brings three teaching artists--a composer, a lyricist, and a performer--into the schools to introduce the students to musical concepts such as pitch, rhythm, and melody, and teaches them how to apply those concepts to songwriting. The students perform their songs for fellow students, teachers, friends and family. Each school will give two performances.

A theme for the songs is provided and the students work collaboratively in groups to write the lyrics and melodies for six songs. Throughout the process, students are asked to follow the "Rules of Collaboration," which encourages students to "listen actively" and "share their ideas and feelings strongly and clearly" during the songwriting process to ensure that the whole group takes ownership of the resulting songs that are then proudly performed on concert day.

For the December concerts, students at Plasencia Elementary School wrote songs about famous animals in history. The process for writing the songs included fun, theatrical games designed to encourage creative thinking and sharing of ideas. The teaching artists working with the Plasencia students are Amy Fogerson (singer), Saunder Choi (composer) and Doug Cooney (lyricist).

For students at Compton Avenue Elementary STEAM Academy, math served as the inspiration for song, specifically, demystifying math concepts by learning the craft of songwriting. Students researched a particular math topic to come up with the ideas and words used in their song. The students were then mentored to understand how to emphasize and accompany their words by creating melody. The teaching artists working with the Compton students are singer Alice Kirwan Murray, lyricist Brett Paesel and composer Matthew Brown.

On each concert day, the students are joined by eight members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale who sing with them at the culmination performances, providing students with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing their songs alongside professional singers.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale partners with elementary schools for Voices Within residencies twice a year, with concerts in the Fall and Spring. Additionally, Voices Within includes an Oratorio Project that engages high school students to compose and perform a full-length oratorio. This year's oratorio performance will be Saturday, February 29th, at 1:00pm, at Van Nuys High School, and its theme is a requiem about climate change. The Master Chorale also presents an annual High School Choir Festival that brings about 1,000 students from around the Southland to sing at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The 31st Annual High School Choir Festival will be held May 1, 2020.

Voices Within was developed for the Los Angeles Master Chorale by Marnie Mosiman in collaboration with Bernardo Solano, Penka Kourneva, David O and Doug Cooney. The first residency was held in 2001 and the program has subsequently been awarded Chorus America's Education and Community Engagement Award.

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