The Cleveland Orchestra lifts the baton this weekend on the finale of a summer-long cultural collaboration.
“The Cleveland Orchestra at Home in Hough” has brought the inner-city neighborhood a series of workshops, summer camps and classical concerts. In today’s State of the Arts, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman reports that the neighborhood residency includes Hough’s own talented residents.
The Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word, a performance poetry group, rehearses at UMADAOP (Urban Minority Alcoholism Drug Abuse Outreach Project), a drug-abuse prevention agency in Hough.
In unison they chant their creed. “But I will never, never, never. Never, never, never accept failure.”
The Distinguished Gentlemen had the project's executive director Jessica Horne bursting with pride in January when they performed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert at Severance Hall.
“The orchestra also played, “says Horne, "so they came back, and just by ear they’re trying to on the piano to replicate what they heard up there. These kids are like sponges.”
Variety of community connections
Encouraging them is among the objectives of the Cleveland Orchestra’s neighborhood residency, according to Rachel Novak, the orchestra’s manager of learning programs and community engagement.
The idea is “leveraging the Cleveland Orchestra’s assets to help them meet some of their goals. We’re kind of doing it in a variety of ways.
“This year, the fourth year of our neighborhood residency, we wanted to focus on the Hough community, which is right in our own backyard from Severance Hall. We’re having educational programs for pre-K up through high school, performances at a senior center, and workshops for families at libraries, to connect the orchestra and some of the great members of this community.”
Across all genres
Novak says the goal is to get everybody involved "regardless of their previous engagement with orchestral music.”
“Music is good,” says Jewan Flowers., "because when you’re stressed out or something,you listen to music and it make you feel better.”
Jewan is 12 and entering seventh grade. “I don’t really know too much about classical music.”
He says he hasn’t heard the Cleveland Orchestra play, but his own favorite ensemble is the drum line he plays in at UMADAOP. “Because I like how the beats go, and it’s fun to play on the drums.”
Music is the hook
Drug-abuse prevention specialist Jessica Horne says the agency’s drum line is one way kids like Jewan keep safe.
“One of the biggest problems with prevention in after- school programs is getting kids and keeping them. We found that if you found a hook, something that kids would come to, and love to come to, and the arts just seemed natural, especially for the African-American kid.
“These are kids who live in at-risk environments. You need to have some coping mechanisms. You know I tell kids, ‘If you get that upset, just go downstairs and get your drums and beat ‘em.’
From her office on East 79th Street, Horne doesn’t look back. She won’t talk about the Hough riots of 50 years ago this summer.
“What I do talk about is a brighter future.” And she says the arts are a key part of it.
“We were doing it all along, and then when these guys came along with this idea, it just kind of fit.”
Classical and more
Horne worked to bring this summer’s visitors from Severance Hall in harmony with Hough’s existing musical assets.
“When they said they were going to bring the arts into it," she responded, "let’s fuse what you are bringing with the music that’s already here, the African drums, even the rap music, fuse it with all of that.”
Rachel Novak says that’s just what the Cleveland Orchestra had in mind for the residency’s summer camps, designed to improve musicianship regardless of genre.
“Singing technique and we’re offering a trombone techniques class and note reading and rhythm, rhythmic accuracy.”
Getting the drummers in synch
Cleveland Orchestra teaching assistant Dylan Moffitt‘s been working all summer with UMADAOP’s drum line, teaching them samba rhythms.
Novak says it was a no-brainer sending Moffitt to Hough to work with drummers.
“He comes from a classical training background, and then has this extensive training from the Brazilian technique as well.”
Novak says the percussionist is building a kind of bridge between Hough and Severance Hall. “A lot of the techniques that he’s teaching the students have the same foundation as orchestral music.”
“Can you guys do this? Can you get it?” Moffitt shouts as he demonstrates the beat. “One, two, one, two. Let me hear that!”
Moffitt also directs a samba school in Cleveland Heights. He says he caught the bug on a trip to Brazil at carnaval time.
“Just walking down the street, just got done eating lunch, and all of a sudden you’re just blasted with drums in the distance. And what you see are just groups of 40, 50 children on the street and playing rhythms like the rhythms that I’m teaching them.”
These are rhythms that don’t require advanced Cleveland Institute of Music degrees like Moffitt’s. “It’s just one of the most accessible forms of entertainment that I think I’ve ever witnessed.”
The drum line at UMADAOP is getting ready for a big performance a week from today. They’re opening for the Cleveland Orchestra at a free concert at East Professional Center, the former East High School.
Only the beginning
Moffitt’s impressed with their progress.
“Their ability to pick up those skills, sometimes instantly; it’s always encouraging to hear young talent, and I feel like the worst thing you can do is neglect that potential.”
The Cleveland Orchestra’s Novak says the work begun at summer camps in Hough will continue into the school year.
"To show them something that’s more rooted in the traditional, classical, orchestral tradition, and that sparks their interest. Maybe there’s an opportunity for that in the future.”
Dylan Moffitt drums that in to his Hough students at every rehearsal.
“Go a few streets over,” he tells them, “and you have one of the best symphony orchestras in the world that’s waiting for you with open arms.”