Updated: Feb 25
Since March 2020, the team at Boston Music Project has continued to develop new and creative ways of engaging with youth through virtual teaching and demonstrating how music and art can offer a first step in Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and healing during the pandemic. In keeping with BMP's core programming of ensemble-based music, SEL instruction, and creative self-expression, BMP students are taking part in a series of student-driven music composition projects. Our latest student project resulted in two multi-movement digital music compositions, "Caged Bird" and "Reflections," which challenged students to think critically and expressively about the meaning of freedom and how to persevere during the moments when one feels caged.
"Freedom is the emotional and spiritual freedom to be and express your highest, true self moment to moment. It liberates you of regrets and fears because you're free to let go of your possessions and surrender to what is not under your control." - Nehemiah, BMP 8th grader
Through a new Digital Music Composition (D.M.C.) residency with Boston Public Schools (BPS), a group of 8th graders at the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston's Chinatown worked alongside BMP teaching artists to compose original music aimed at capturing the creative spirit, diversity, and youth perspectives during remote learning. This three-month residency resulted in two multi-movement digital music compositions, "Caged Bird" and "Reflections," released on BMP's SoundCloud channel on February 4, 2021. We invite you to listen to the full album and read more about these pieces and the inspiration behind each of the movements. A portion of this project was made possible thanks to the support from The Liberty Mutual Foundation and Filene Foundation.
The multi-movement title track of the album, "Caged Bird" was inspired by American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s poem, “I know why the caged bird sings.” Twenty-five 8th grade students worked alongside BMP Teaching Artist Minjin Chung, Collegiate Intern Brandon Volel, Music Technology Specialist Josh Wareham, Executive Director Christopher Schroeder, and BPS Music Teacher Teresa Herfindahl to deconstruct the subtext of Angelous' words and embed her lines of poetry and student narratives in a through-composed soundscape intended to amplify the perspectives and emotions of our city’s youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the residency, BMP teaching artists and students reflected on times in their lives when they feel caged and how to persevere during the moments when they feel caged.
"When I’m trying to lift myself up, I would think of the outcome or result of what I’m doing now, because that motivates me to continue what I’m doing so I could do even better later on. I would also think about what would happen if I don't lift myself up because that helps me remind myself that I might regret this choice so use the time wisely and make the bad or sad things go away faster." - Christina, BPS 8th grader
Boston Public Schools Music Teacher Teresa Herfindahl shared that, "our 8th grade music students were very proud of the work they did and are excited with the final album. We have been listening all week and the students have been asked to reflect on their work." You can hear a short clip from Ms. Herfindahl in track five, "Profound Resilience." Special thank you to BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and Josiah Quincy Upper Head of School Richard Chang for reading excerpts from Angelou’s poem on the album.
The second half of the album features original digital music composition tracks composed by individual students under the guidance of BMP Music Technology Specialist and Teaching Artist Josh Wareham. For each track, students prepared artists statements that example this inspiration for their piece.
FuNkO "The inspiration for this song came from the trumpet. Since I played the trombone I wanted a song funky like that." - Kevin, BPS 8th Grader
Blue "When I started my song “Blue” I was inspired by the melody of the first two piano and guitar loops. The drumbeat that I made myself is kind of mixed with the melody and the bass harmony in the back makes the song and the transaction more coordinated. This song reminds me of the blue color, it feels laid back and smooth. My inspiration comes from the loops that I picked, I think they are cool and I like them. I think the drums I made myself match that music. I think the song has a climax and a low-key, so I made the middle part a higher pitch, and the latter part is more silenced. I hope people feel relaxed when they hear this song." - Xinyi, BPS 8th Grader
Night in the Heavens
"My inspiration for my song is that I had a goal in mind and an idea to be brought to life. For what is the sky without the sun? The beach without the ocean? The music without the melody, rhythm or harmony? They are all different, but they go together. Set your mind to anything you want to achieve, and you will achieve it with friends. You might be different, but you go together."- Joe, BPS 8th Grader
"When I started the song "sweet water" I really liked the base that I’ve started with, which were some drums beats and piano loops. A few of the soft piano loops have inspired me to make a calm song. A little towards the end of the song, there were also a few really high notes that could also connect back to the song name, “sweet water” since it's like water dripping into a pond." - Christina, BPS 8th Grader