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News & Events

Student and alumni composers make music with elementary students

Moores School of Music collaborates with other nonprofits to create music inspired by youth poets

When Moores School of Music composers team up with fourth and fifth-grade poets, the musical possibilities are limitless.

Eighteen youth poets at Kashmere Gardens Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District wrote original poems as part of the Writers in the Schools (WITS) creative writing program at their school.

A collaboration between the Moores School, WITS and HGOco, the Houston Grand Opera’s community collaborative initiative, led to the students’ words being set to music.

“It’s been an interesting experience,” said UH composer and alumnus George Heathco. “I had to spend time with the text – getting into it, reading it. Since it’s not my own text, I had to put myself into it and perhaps insert some of my own experiences into the words.”

The process has been a learning experience for both the UH composers and the Kashmere Gardens students. Just as the fourth- and fifth-graders learned about poetry, the composers are receiving lessons in maintaining the lyrical integrity of a musical work.

“I want to stay true to what they wrote,” said Desmond Ikegwuonu, who graduated with his master’s degree earlier in May. “I’ll definitely take liberties with my own text. When I’m given text written by someone else, I try to delve deeply into their words.”

Other composers who participated in the project are alumnus Phillip Elder, masters students Daniel Webbon and Samuel Hunter and doctoral candidate Mark Buller.

At a free public concert on June 3, the original songs were performed by the composers and other Moores School students with vocals from Houston Grand Opera baritone Lee Gregory and HGOco teaching artists Alisa White and Kiana Day.

The event was held at the Kashmere Community Center, 4802 Lockwood Dr. in Houston, and also featured the premiere of an original opera based on the picture book, “The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” created by Kashmere Gardens students under the leadership of White, Day and Kashmere Gardens teacher Stephen Ferrell.

The Moores School partnership with HGOco, WITS and Kashmere Gardens complements other musical initiatives. Earlier this year, Moores and HGOco teamed up with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to deliver western-themed music that was performed at the University of Houston and around the city.

- By Mike Emery