Transforming emotion to music notes

Personalized song created for symphonic band members

Ivy Kaplan

Most high school students get their daily music fix from the radio in the car, YouTube or whatever song comes up on shuffle mode on their phones. However, not many students can say that they actually helped create those songs.

In preparation for their spring concert, symphonic band members got this opportunity. Kim Moren, a former St. Olaf graduate, composed an original musical piece based on student input for members to play and call their own.

Band director Steve Schmitz said he decided to give symphonic band this experience as a special part of their concert in comparison to other bands.

“I’ve always felt that, even before my time here, that symphonic band has felt less than wind ensemble, like not as good or not as good of an experience and so I was really looking for creative ways to counter that,” Schmitz said. “I thought that it would be really special if we had a piece written just for them.”

After getting in contact with Moren, students brainstormed possible ideas and presented them as inspiration for the piece. Meetings held over Skype allowed students to collaborate with her and ultimately make a decision on what the song would be about, according to junior band member Fatoumata Jaiteh.

The band decided on junior Laura Campos’ idea, based on the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe.

“There were a couple of people who gave ideas and Laura was the one who said, ‘Oh, let’s do ‘Tell Tale Heart’ from Edgar Allen Poe,’” Jaiteh said. “I guess (Moren) used that theme to help make the music.”

Because of the personalization of the piece for symphonic band, Schmitz said he noticed students took more of an interest in it as opposed to other music that is traditionally played.

“I felt like they were more invested and proud of it, and that they tried harder. You can tell in little ways, like before we start class when they’re just warming up on their instruments, and you hear them playing little pieces of that music, you can tell they like it,” Schmitz said. “I just kept telling them ‘This is your piece and when it’s published, it will always say St. Louis Park Senior High Symphonic Band 2014.’”

Jaiteh said she agrees with Schmitz and enjoyed the piece more than other songs played in previous years or by other bands across the country.

“You can tell that it tells a story and it’s more mysterious, and I think it’s more interesting than when we play classical music because more people can actually relate to it,” she said. “It’s also kind of a horror or scary story so you can see that through the music.”

In addition to students, Schmitz said audience members responded positively to the performance during their concert on March 15.

“We had the composer stand up so she could be recognized and it seemed like they appreciated and liked the tune and what we were trying to accomplish with it,” he said.

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