Friday, February 28, 2014

Student Artwork to Shine for Compassion Project

As part of our upcoming Cory Chisel concert, we are proud to be working with the Fox Cities P.A.C. and local high school students to bring another Compassion Project event to our community. "The Art of Compassion" is a silent auction of student art, inspired by the works of local non-profit organizations with all proceeds to be give to those organizations. Students chose to work with NAMI, ARC of the Fox Valley, Harbor House and the Fox Cities Emergency Shelter.

Art Student Sarah Ellisen at work on her project. 
The students have been working hard on their projects, and there are over 120 pieces to bid on in the auction. We are so fortunate to have such a large group of dedicated students and teachers working on behalf of these organizations. 

Chip Noffke, Visual Arts teacher at Appleton East, was kind enough to share his experience with us.

"As an AASD Fine Arts Teacher, I was excited and honored be part of this great opportunity.  Visually listening to our youth is something I do on a daily basis, yet I am still amazed when I see the range of results and compassion that so easily pours from our students.  It is my hope that as you enjoy the answers to this rich question, your hearts and eyes will also be opened to see the possibilities and fullness of our all futures through our young artists’ eyes and these four noteworthy organizations.

"In continuation with our last community wide event, Fox Valley youth artists share how “The Fine Arts” continue to be one of the strongest and most diverse communication tools.  Students have once again easily opened our emotional doors and bridged the connections between community, education and humanity through their art which focus on local organizations and the compassion they provide for the Fox Valley.

"NAMI, ARC of the Fox Valley, Harbor House and the Fox Cities Emergency Shelter are four groups that have various roles in our K-12 systems, though often over looked how. Our students had the opportunity to explore the ways in which each organization played a role in helping all ages, genders, and families succeed in coping and overcoming life’s left turns.  One common point that had a significant connection with students is that we all knew of somebody that has worked with one of these organizations on some level.  This offered great inspiration for the artists.

"The artists involved were asked to share their interpretation of what compassion looks like for one of the organizations or how their art could offer compassion for somebody working with one of the four organizations.  Artists then used their gifts and talents to visually express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas about each group to bring awareness and support to these service organizations right here in the Fox Valley with amazing results.  Each original art work reflects their unique answers."

Please join us for this special event at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 15 at 7:30pm. You can purchase tickets to the concert on our website.

Doors open at 6:30, so come early to see and bid on the art!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Compassion Project Joins the FVSO

We are proud to partner with Appleton's Compassion Project for their second event here in the Fox Valley, the Art of Compassion. 

At our March 15 Cory Chisel concert, we will be opening K.C. Theater at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center as our art gallery. Before the concert and at intermission, our audience can view works of art from our local high schools and bid on them in a silent auction. Each piece is inspired by one of our local charities, and the money raised from the auction of each piece will be donated to that specific charity. It is an amazing way for our students to dedicate their time time and art to a charity that is meaningful to them.

Bridget Flaherty, St. Francis Xavier High School student
and musician with Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra
St. Francis Xavier High School student Bridget Flaherty is our coordinator for this project, and we are also lucky to have her as part of our Fox Valley Symphony Youth Orchestra. For the Art of Compassion project, Bridget will be working with the artists and helping to set up the silent auction at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. 

"Having the opportunity to work on a project like the Compassion project not only inspires me but also proves to me that there is hope for my generation," says Flaherty. 

"When deciding what I wanted to work on for my required Junior Service Project at Xavier High School, I knew I wanted to choose something regarding the arts. Music and the arts have been an enormous part of my life since I was young through violin and piano lessons, participation in the Fox Valley Youth Symphonies, and participating in choir and art classes at school. When my mother, Beth Flaherty, suggested the Compassion Project I knew it was the perfect fit. Now that I have a deeper understanding of the purpose of the project and the involvement I have an even greater appreciation for the wonderful thing the project does.  

"I believe the most important aspect of the project is the unification of the Appleton schools through the value of compassion. All the students participating have different perspectives on what compassion means to them, and after reading all 120 of the artist statements, my definition of compassion has broadened. Every piece of artwork is worth more than any amount of money could buy it for because of the thought and hard work put into it by the student artists. 

"This exhibit will not only inspire you, but it will encourage you to step back and ask yourself what compassion means to you, and do your best to live your life with those values."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Turning Cory Chisel's Music into a Symphonic Celebration

Of course we are excited about our upcoming concert with Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons on March 15. And one of the things making this concert even more special for us is that one of our own musicians, cellist Heather Anderson, is arranging the music for the symphony and Cory! 

Heather has been performing with the Fox Valley Symphony since our 1995-96 season when she was in college. She's also worked with our Youth Orchestras and our Partners in Education program over the years. For this concert, Heather will be arranging parts for the symphony and scores for conductor Brian Groner to play Cory Chisel's popular songs. It is a complex puzzle, and Heather tells us a bit about her experience: 

Heather Anderson working with our Philharmonia students.
"Composing is a funny process for me.  Or maybe what I experience is pretty typical.  I don’t know.  For all the analyzing I do – keys, time signatures, form, etc. – none of it matters much in the end.  No amount of analyzing and planning can create the synergy of notes working together to create something that elicits an emotional response from the musicians and audience.  That takes a bit of luck, some artistry and a group that can embrace and interpret a song with zeal.  The more I think about a song and analyze it the harder it is for me to actually “put pen to paper” (or in this case mouse to Finale software) and find the motivation to actually begin writing a song.  It can be very scary to stare at a screen with blank staffs and not be sure which part of that giant elephant to begin eating first.  It can cause anxiety and frustration. 

"Blank canvases, journals or music staffs are scary to look at.   Insecurities don’t help.  A lot of us are afraid to fail, but just as big of an inhibitor is being afraid to succeed.  If I dwell on either too much, the muse flees and I can’t write anything.  So, where to start?  As a cellist I almost always start with the bass line.  I’ll listen over and over. I’ll hum it.  Then I’ll transcribe it out for our bass section. Then I listen to the melody and start to transcribe it, putting it anywhere to begin with, usually into the violins just to have it be somewhere at first.   But those are still just planning and analyzing.  Those don’t reflect energy, style, or the soul of a piece.   Often I get stuck at this point because I am still only using my left brain, still analyzing.  

"Maestro Groner said something to the symphony in a rehearsal once, perhaps 5 or 6 years ago, that has really stayed with me.  We were playing a modern 20th century piece that very few of the orchestra members cared for.  He could sense this and he stopped us.   In a calm, quiet voice he said something along these lines.  “Look, if we don’t believe in this piece, how will the audience ever believe in it or enjoy it?  Here’s the rub:  You don’t know what you like; you like what you know.  People gravitate towards the familiar.”   So, we all were charged with listening to that particular piece often at home as a part of the concert preparation process.  This has changed how I approach a lot of music, familiar and new, those that I like and songs I dislike.   So, when arranging one of Cory’s songs I listen to it A LOT.  Enough that I dream about it.  Enough that I know the chord changes and melodic variations from one verse to the next by heart.  I’ll get fixated on a piece for a week and sing it in the car, at work, in the shower.   I may be a Cory Chisel expert by the end of this composing project!  This week my idée fixe is “Born Again.”  Next it’ll be “Mockingbird” since I’m starting that one tomorrow.

"At some point during my listening the magic happens.   Ideas just start to pop into my head, unbidden.  I didn’t plan to put that melody in the trumpets, but that’s what’s in my head and, wow, it sounds pretty darn good there!  Harmonies unfold, interesting little timbres pop out in my imagination where, for example, chimes in the percussion section would really accentuate a spot and create a little bubble of excitement.  Often I’m surprised at what my imagination present to me.  Sometimes I’ll hear whole sections played, finished in my mind and have to write it down very quickly to remember what I “heard.”   But it all starts with a lot of listening to Cory’s CD’s and really coming to know the song.  And it takes relaxing my mind and being open to the muse, if you will.  And when a song is completed I’ll routinely listen and ask myself “how did I do that?”   The answer is:  Relax, listen, and create. 

"I am thrilled Cory will get to hear his music interpreted with an entire symphony orchestra – something usually reserved for huge names like Sting or Metallica.  I am both excited for my peers to play my notes, my work, my interpretations of Cory’s tunes and I am equally terrified.  Cory, Maestro Groner and my peers have high expectations because they are all professional musicians and expect a professional level product from me.  And most have never played anything of mine before.  While I have premiered a piece with a few Illinois orchestras in the last few years, most of my peers never even knew I wrote music until they saw my name in the January concert program!  I know that, even if I have some typos for less familiar instruments to me, the other musicians will celebrate the occasion with me and give me excellent constructive feedback so I can improve. Already I have had numerous offers from my peers to look at parts and help me understand their instruments better; they want me to succeed.  This is greatly comforting and buoys my energy.  I’m so excited to share Cory’s and my music with them and the audience and have the chance to both compose and play something with my own symphony orchestra, my home team.  This is truly a rare opportunity and I feel blessed to have been trusted with this task by Brian Groner."