Westridge hosted Jefferson Middle School (from San Gabriel) on Thursday, February 12 for the Middle School Orchestra Festival. This is the third time Westridge has held the event, but the first time an emphasis has been placed on music composition rather than performance. To focus on composition, Middle and Upper School Orchestra teacher Leo Kitajima created a short, stop-motion film and gave students the opportunity to score it. Click the video above to see the program’s process which features some of the students’ scores.
Before the Festival day, 68 Jefferson Middle School Orchestra students and 42 Westridge Middle School Orchestra students began exchanging musical ideas via voice memos and videos in a shared Dropbox folder. Then, when the Jefferson students came to Westridge, the collaboration continued in small, mixed groups of 4 or 5, where they were given prompts and composing techniques such as pentatonic scales to generate musical ideas. What resulted was magnificent―21 original compositions that could seamlessly accompany the film.
While performance is an important part of developing musicianship, Kitajima knows performance to only be a part of music education and builds listening, analysis, and composition into his curriculum.
Kitajima said this about the festival, "The excitement of working with new people and being able to create something together because of a unifying skill set like music is something that Esther Minwary (music teacher at Jefferson Middle School) and I were trying to highlight. Students begin to see the bigger picture of what music making is all about: grappling with ideas, working with others, creating something personally meaningful, and sharing it with an appreciative audience."