By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
It was a rare treat for the Forsythe Middle School Orchestra when composer Adrian Gordon visited via Zoom from Miami to answer their questions, listen to their performance of his song “The Enchanted Forest” and then critique that performance.
“We originally picked another of Mr. Gordon’s pieces, The Enchanted Forest, to perform at Orchestra Night,” explained Forsythe Orchestra Director Kristi Crowell. “Since that performance was recorded and shared publicly, I reached out to him to request this ability. He granted our orchestra permission to publish his piece—for free—and when I asked if he would be interested in working with our students he immediately agreed.”
Adrian Gordon, a Miami-based performer, composer, and music educator who serves as the orchestra director at Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, Florida. He is the founder of Leap Year Music Publishing which, publishes string music for elementary, middle, and high school ensembles.
The focus of this session was to have the students work directly with the composer for a rehearsal, discuss the composition process, and discuss his experience as an African American composer, musician, and teacher.
Students took turns asking Gordon questions they had prepared.
When asked if he thought it was important to practice their instruments, Gordon assured them it was, partly because young people today expect instant gratification. He said practicing is a valuable skill that helped him get through a lot of his schoolwork later on in college.
“The research is there. It’s clear that there is added value to playing your instruments and instrument music,” he told them. “Reading and playing help with your logic and executive functioning skills. So there’s a lot of value to you guys making music on a daily basis.”
Their teacher nodded enthusiastically.
“You listen real close to this man!” Crowell said with a laugh, pointing to his image on the screen.
After class, students said they enjoyed the session, noting that it felt good to perform a song for the composer himself, and then to get his feedback.
“It was really helpful because we got to learn about the piece a bit more,” said an eighth grader, “and we got tips from the composer and how it was supposed to be. Also, it’s nice having a viewpoint from a different composer that’s not just our teacher, because it kind of widens your view a little.”