A Prep Division-elementary school collaboration
By Susan Jackson
Village—a percussion ensemble commission by Juilliard for the Preparatory Division and the Washington Heights and Inwood Music Community Charter School (WHIN)—began as an opportunity to connect and resulted in the creation of a new community of artists of various ages and across disciplines. The young musicians were joined by the composer, Kendall Williams, on steel pan, and Juilliard dancers who created choreography to go with the piece. The resulting performance was recorded and the video is available to watch here. A companion making-of documentary is available to watch here.
Composer Kendall Williams wrote: “In recreating the sounds of the roots and folkloric music of the ancestors, his modern take on Village portrays the coming of a musician [and harnesses the rhythmic interlocking patterns and vibrant polyrhythms over the course of a ceremony.” To address the challenge of working with percussion students of widely differing ages and experience levels, he created a musical metaphorical village by dividing the students into “tribes of timbre; wood, skin, metal, and plastic.”
Not long before filming began, dance students Rachel Lockhart and Isaiah Day were brought in to create choreography, which they performed with several of their classmates. The movement was about “bringing the village together, and uplifting people and having some sort of community,” Day said. “This is a moment to dance it all out and celebrate what a village can do.”
A big part of that celebration was that all the performers were able to—finally!—rehearse and perform together in the late spring. “I think the excitement of performing and of finally being in the same room at the same time got the musicians so excited that everybody’s ability just exponentially increased,” said Pre-College faculty member Pablo Rieppi (MM ’94, percussion) who originated the collaboration with WHIN. “It turned out to be just a complete joy.”
The students clearly agreed. “Seeing everything come together was really exciting,” MAP student Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton said. “As percussionists, we have to play as one—we have to feel the same pulse, the same rhythm, the same feeling. Being in person and being able to see the person right next to you and play together—we were able to communicate and connect.”