Day 4 may be our best day yet! First thing this morning, we started with a writing activity led by Madeline Cohen, Symphony Space’s Education Director and camp’s lead teaching artist for Week 1. For this activity, we created a “pass along story.” Each camper began by writing several sentences about an ordinary activity. Then we passed our papers to the next person in the group, who added a place to add a scary sound. Then we passed the story long once more, and that newest writer added a scary sight. After several more insertions of scary things, the original writer eventually received their story back, where they completed the story by incorporating the new elements. We came up with some pretty silly and suspenseful tales (“I was practicing cartwheels when a bloody knife appeared on the floor…”). After completing our stories, we did something a little different and practiced our teamwork with a group movement activity. We had to silently make the form of a certain shape (a circle, a square, the letter H…), as quickly as possible and without speaking. After playing, we discussed the different roles and challenges that emerged.
Mid-morning, today’s author arrived: Claire Legrand, author of The Year of Shadows. The book tells the story of a girl who goes to live with her father, the maestro of a failing orchestra, in his broken-down concert hall to save money, and encounters some ghosts who haunt the hall and need her help.
Claire began by talking about her life as a kid: the books she loved, and most importantly, all about the trumpet. She originally intended to be a musician, and shared a sound clip from the great ensemble she played with. She even brought out her actual trumpet, which she hadn’t played in eight years! She played us a sparkling rendition of “happy birthday.”
We continued our musical exploration with a listening and writing exercise. Claire played three audio clips of music from different movies, and we wrote down what we felt and imagined in response. On a big sheet of paper, Claire made a “word bank” from all of our responses. After creating three words banks (one for each piece of music), we each chose one of the word banks and wrote a story using those words. After a book signing with Claire, the group (including Claire) went to lunch in the park, where we read our stories to her and shared more thoughts on her books.
After returning from lunch, Claire and all the campers headed downtown to a visit to the New York Philharmonic’s Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.
We entered through the very-important stagedoor, and gathered in the musician’s lounge (where they gather before and in-between performances). Our guide, Ted Wiprud, the New York Philharmonic’s Education Director, gave us some history of the building, and we looked at old photos of maestros (some of the previous music directors and conductors). After this informative discussion, we went on a spooky adventure into the bowels of the building… Splitting off into small groups and armed only with two flashlights, we crept along a narrow hallway, stopping first to see a tiny, dusty room where the old scores are kept. From there, we walked even further down a dark and even more narrow passageway, into a pitch-black room, lit only from our flashlights. All we could see was a very dark room, and a red speckled ceiling… and we could hear the faint sounds of music playing from a mysterious location.
Then we walked up to the sky-high VIP boxes in the balcony to get a bird’s-eye view of the stage, which is in the process of being re-finished (the orchestra is on tour in Colorado currently). We walked around to see all the backstage and office areas, and different corners of the building.
We also were lucky to see one of the main green rooms, where the conductors and lead artists receive their public after each performance. We saw a “death mask” of Beethoven. A “death mask” is a bust made of a notable person made from a mold taken just moments after their death… It was pretty creepy!