Let’s Explore! (OrchPress Spring 2018)

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Pacing the front of the room, Russell Kirk, Jazz Saxophonist and OrchKids Teaching Artist, surveys the group of young students squirming and giggling on rows of orange buckets in front of him. Suddenly, he stops and exclaims, “LIGATURE!” The students quickly snap to attention, trying to hide their grins behind serious expressions.

These students are our Marins, the introductory after school level of programming named after OrchKids founder Marin Alsop for children ages 5-8 that emphasizes community-building and musicality, and they are about to participate in one of OrchKids’ most unique classes: Exploratory Instruments. The Exploratory class is only offered at the Marin level, and it provides students the possibility to experience the three major instrument groups: Strings (violin), Woodwinds (recorder) and Brass (trumpet). The curriculum emphasizes skills such as group lesson etiquette, instrument care and the art of performance; at the end of each instrument unit, students demonstrate their newfound skills for their families and community members in concert.

Kirk, long-time OrchKids faculty member for the Jazz and Woodwind departments, is in his second year of teaching the Exploratory Class for the Marin level at Mary Ann Winterling Elementary School. A renowned jazz saxophonist, Russell is also a captivating teaching artist. In each instrument unit, he encourages improvisation and originality from his students. Concerts often feature student solos (instrumental, singing and/or spoken word) and original compositions written by himself or collaboratively with students. It is both the goal of the Marin level and Russell to inspire students to select their instrument and make it possible for them to be able to successfully participate in group lessons once they have graduated to the next level – the Primo level. Brava Marins!

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