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Published on 1st May 2019

Strung Out On Inspiration

As hands shot up around the room, orchestra director Adam Keda scribbled on the notebook in front of him. The sheet, titled "Collage Concert Themes," was filled with ideas from any student who had something to add. Soon, the class settled on a theme that would describe their year perfectly — “Chords of Creativity.”

Keda saw the importance of allowing his students to be creative. He worked to build an environment that would bring this into his assignments, classroom and concerts.

Trying to step outside of the traditional classical music they usually performed, the orchestra classes instead looked over the sheet music from Game of Thrones or discussed playing the theme from “Up” as their fall concert finale. Brainstorming ideas for unique ways to execute a tango piece, students tried to incorporate other types of art.

“Maybe we could talk to a Lancer Dancer about performing while we play,” junior Wesley Truster would suggest.

“What if we made a short movie and played it on the screen while we perform?” Keda would add.

The more freedom students had when picking their songs, the more passionate they were when playing them. They wanted to brainstorm set lists for their upcoming concerts. They weren’t afraid to admit to Keda that they were tired of the classical pieces he continued to assign. Students learned to be leaders in the classroom because they were heard by their peers and their director.

“It gives us a sense of pride when we’re successful in ideas that we come up with,” Senior Stuart Hanson said. “Keda has done a good job at building a community and bringing in more student leadership to help create that.”

In an attempt to embrace creativity, Keda held his first “pop-up concert” in the orchestra room on Halloween. The students decorated the room with pumpkins and spider webs and performed for their peers at lunch. A month later, first hour was begging to do another one for Christmas.

“The pop-up concerts are one of Keda’s best ideas,” Hanson said. “It’s so much fun decorating the room and playing just a little bit of Halloween or Christmas music. Students actually showed up.”

Instead of assigning daily playing tests or rhythm worksheets at the beginning of the year, Keda posted an assignment on Google Classroom. “Music from the Soundtrack of your Life,” the post read. Students were to link a song that held meaning for them and explain why it was special in their lives.

Senior Alex Como linked the song “Rivers and Roads” and shared how much she would miss her friends after graduation. Senior Jennie Boutros selected “Vida La Vida” because it inspired her to play her violin strongly and recreate the confidence she heard in the song.

“Anytime you can give students free expression or an opportunity to share those things, it really brings us closer together,” Keda said. “The whole reason we’re involved in music is for some type of self expression.”

Although most ideas wouldn’t see the concert stage, each one was considered by the class. No matter if a student was first chair violin or fifth stand viola, they had a voice in the orchestra room. When they stepped into room 212, they were heard — in their music and their ideas.

“Creativity is going to take students further in life than any other thing they learn in school,” Keda said. “They will do so well if they know how to think outside of the box and use those skills.”