Bringing Students to the Music

This month the Israel Philharmonic concerts that conclude the current semester’s KeyNote music education program will be out-of-this-world.

 

Since its launch in 2000, thanks largely to support from the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, the IPO’s KeyNote music education program has been extending its reach into schools across Israel. Later this month, when the current curriculum culminates in a series of full orchestra performances, the soaring music will be part of KeyNote’s collaboration with Israel’s historic effort to reach the moon.

Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, the early February concerts for high school students will include video images transmitted from the SpaceIL craft as it approaches its target.

“Each semester we have the same goals and requirements for the program,” said Dr. Dochy Lichtensztajn, KeyNote’s Pedagogical Director, who together with Program Director Irit Rub builds each term’s unique curriculum around a half-dozen specially chosen classical music pieces. The weekly in-class curriculum, taught in participating schools by their own music instructors, ends with all the students coming to Charles R. Bronfman Auditorium to hear the pieces performed live by the full orchestra. In 2018 alone, the IPO music program reached more than 22,000 students, from kindergarten through high school.

“The final, full-orchestra concerts are essential to bringing each term’s curriculum to life,” Lichtensztajn said. “The student audiences are not simply observers. Their attention, interest, and especially their energy are essential to complete the concert. This partnership with the musicians is part of what we want them to understand through the curriculum we provide.”

As we wrote in November 2018’s article KeyNote Goes to School, before each term participating schools send their music teachers to the KeyNote offices in Bronfman Auditorium to learn the curriculum from the two directors. They go home with support materials for in-class teaching: video links, CDs, and comprehensive booklets that KeyNote creates about the pieces, the composers, and the historical periods in which they wrote. To experience the music live in the classroom, KeyNote sends groups of IPO musicians to each school accompanied by trained moderators who act as presenters.

“We make a big thing about the Philharmonic Orchestra coming to our school,” said Debbie Zayit, who is in charge of music education at Hovav elementary school in Bnei Zion, a moshav in central Israel. “Later, when the children go to hear the concert live with the whole of the Philharmonic orchestra playing on stage, they can relate to the music and feel a connection.”

“For the final Philharmonic concerts at Bronfman Auditorium,” said Libby Azaryahu, a 20-year veteran of teaching in Israeli schools, who has participated in every KeyNote program since day one, “we hear an hour concert of the pieces we learned in class. All the pieces we are hearing in Bronfman, the children learned and know how to analyze, what to listen for, and what the solo instruments are.”

“It’s a community thing as well,” continued Zayit. “It gets different children together, listening to the same music, making it universal. Children from different backgrounds and different ethnic groups all come and listen together, which is another wonderful thing.”

 

CONNECTING MUSIC AND SCIENCE

“This past semester’s curriculum has been unique, however,” Lichtensztajn said. “”We have collaborated with SpaceIL, the program that is scheduled to make Israel the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon. It is very important for all of us because it is the first time we have organized an interdisciplinary program that connects two themes: space and music. So, we chose pieces that were written about the moon, the stars, and space.”

“For our curriculum,” added KeyNote Program Director Irit Rub, “SpaceIL also prepared a great booklet about this project for the students.”

In September 2007, Google announced its Lunar XPRIZE of $30 million to the first privately funded team to land a robot on the moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters and transmits back high-definition images and video. Israel’s SpaceIL was one of 29 international teams to sign up. When none of the projects met the original deadline, Google extended the deadline to March 2018. After that deadline passed unmet, it withdrew the cash prize. In April of this year, however, XPRIZE announced the competition would continue, if only for bragging rights. With so much time and funds invested, several projects including SpaceIL announced they would forge ahead.

The entire journey, from launch to landing, will last approximately two months. Originally targeted for last month, at press time, SpaceIL had moved its projected Cape Canaveral launch to February 2019. That would allow it reach the moon before the other projects spawned through the Google prize, and make Israel the fourth country — after Russia, the United States and China — to put a craft on the surface of the moon.

 

THE CURRICULUM MUSIC

KeyNote’s late January and early February IPO concerts for students will be divided into three age groups with grades 3 through 6 attending concerts in Lowy Hall on January 23 and 24. Five pieces, conducted by Roni Porat, will be the core of the curriculum:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major,” 1st movement
  • Gustav Holst’s Jupiter movement from “The Planets” suite
  • Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”
  • Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9 in E minor,” “From the New World,” 1st and 2nd movements
  • John Williams’ “Star Wars (A New Hope),” 1st movement, “Luke’s Theme”

In February, high school students will come to Lowy for an expanded repertoire that includes the 4th movement of Ludwig Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F major,” or “Pastoral Symphony.” This movement, called “The Thunder Storm,” features solo piano.

There will also be an original composition by Yaron Gottfried, who will conduct the concert.

It is hoped that during these secondary school performances, there will be a live broadcast from the SpaceIL craft.

The KeyNote selections also formed the basis of “To the Moon – The IPO for Kids,” the IPO’s January 3 “Family and Kids” concert in Lowy Concert Hall, which was “a musical journey to the moon and beyond” featuring the Beethoven, Holst, Mussorgsky, and Dvořák pieces along with one by Debussy. Porat conducted.

The youngest students participating in the KeyNote program – kindergarten through second grade – will not get the space-oriented curriculum, but a more conventional selection of pieces that will be performed in Zucker Hall by a ten-piece chamber group of IPO musicians.

 

SPECIAL RESONANCE

According to Lichtensztajn, three of the pieces in this year’s curriculum connect with recent noteworthy space program anniversaries. In 2016, Holst’s “Jupiter” movement was having its centennial when NASA’s Juno mission entered its orbit around our solar system’s fifth and largest planet.

Just over 40 years ago, the first movement of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concert No. 2” was included on a golden record carried onboard each of the two Voyagers. After Voyager 1 and 2 spent the next decade-plus in a trajectory that took them close to several of our planets, they continued on to the edge of our solar system, entering deep space in November 2018.

“After they operated for 41 years, they are now reaching out for other intelligent life in deep space, carrying the same Bach piece we will be performing for our students this month and next,” said Lichtensztajn.

The Dvořák piece has special resonance for those with an immigrant heritage, as well as every student, headed for the edge adolescence and into adulthood.

“The ‘New World Symphony’ was also carried into space,” Lichtensztajn said. “It was aboard the Apollo 11 mission, which made the first moon landing 50 years ago this summer. This serves as a very important metaphora, because, of course for students, this is all a new world of musical experience. And, because Dvořák was an immigrant to the United States, who sailed into New York onboard ship, his music contains feelings from his experience that are similar to those of the astronauts landing on the moon.

“And so we are working on those parameters: the feelings and expectations of discovering something new, and maybe undoing something from your old world,” she concluded. “We are exploring all these fascinating aspects and how this music can touch – and help us explore – these emotions.”