John Cage string quartet (above).
Photo credits to NOI participants.
One of the things that makes the National Orchestral Institute truly unique is the New Lights program, which involved two concerts that were almost completely designed by the students. Led by James Undercofler, we had several brainstorming sessions to create two concert-going experiences that were different from the norm.
The first was a children's concert. Our "anchor" piece was Prokofiev's classic Peter and the Wolf, for which I played in the orchestra. As for the rest, small groups selected well-known children's books: Harold and the Purple Crayon, Ferdinand, and Where the Wild Things Are. Small chamber groups used existing music and also improvised musical pieces around these books. Narrators (in costume!) read the stories out loud to the music. This concert took place in the atrium of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, so we also had to decide how to best use our performance space. In the top picture above, you can see that we set up the orchestra at the bottom of the stairs. The audience sat on the stairs. The purple streamers you see were meant to represent the purple crayon drawings of Harold. For Peter and the Wolf, our wind players also wore costumes representing the animals. The kids in the audience had a really great time, and it was a very rewarding experience to engage with young audience members!