Chamber Music Update: The Chittick Peace Quintet

There are three weeks until this school year’s musiConnects programming comes to the end, and we’re all going into reflection mode. Today, before rehearsal, one of our Shostakovich groups, the Chittick Peace Quintet (who you may remember from the earlier blog post Girls Going Places With Chamber Music) did some free writing. The writing prompt was “The Chittick Peace Quintet Is…”

They wrote quietly at the table for ten minutes.

Reflective Writing Time

Reflective Writing Time

Here is what each of them wrote (as read aloud):

Ayiana: The Chittick Peace Quintet is an amazing group of five young girls playing music and having fun. At times it is not always work work work. Sometimes we make mistakes but our teacher is always there to help. People that have music are the same as everyone else. That is what the Chittick Peace Quintet is all about.

Avrie: The Chittick Peace Quintet is a sensational group. We have been together for nine months. We get along together, play music together and sometimes have a great laugh and act silly. It’s kinda like we’re a family. We are called the Peace Quintet because we’re full of peace and friendship.

Amie: The Chittick Peace Quintet is good exposure for me because when I started I didn’t know if I was ready. But I got through it all because I had teachers there to help me. We’re a family too. Look at where I am, standing with one of the greatest music teachers in the world because of my mom and my music teachers. But one more thing: I have to thank Daelen, Ayiana, Avrie, and Hadassah. We are peace. Peace.

Hadassah: The Chittick Peace Quintet is loveful and careful of what they do and they don’t give up on each other. The fun thing about it is we know about the things that are fun and mindful to us and if one person is mad of course everybody is going to feel bad because that is how a team works together.

Daelen: The Chittick Peace Quintet is…crazy, fun, exotic, wonderful, amazing, tremendous, colorful like a family.

As the teacher of this group, I agree with all of them, and could add more. They have come together very beautifully as a chamber group. Any chamber musician — student, professional or avocational — could learn something from watching how they interact as musicians and teammates. They always make sure everyone’s voice is heard. They are open and frank and supportive of each other’s ideas. They share a sense of humor and playfulness. The thrust of the work we’ve done together this year is that as they play chamber music, they must – at all costs – connect with each other and not let go until the final notes finish ringing. In order to stay connected, they listen widely and carefully and play in a way that is welcoming to everyone in the group, that keeps the energy in the center, where everyone’s sounds are mixing.

To be honest, the work they have done this year has not resulted in an impressive-sounding, flashy performance piece. In fact, their musicmaking sounds quite raw; you would not want this quintet to play at your wedding (at least not yet). Harmonic intonation has not been a big topic. We haven’t gotten into discussion of dynamics, tone, phrasing. Their piece “Gimme a Cue” (which the girls LOVE, written by Betsy Hinkle) doesn’t pretend to be something more than elemental: it’s a simple jazz-like harmonic progression in rhythmic unison, and that’s enough for now. There will be time in 5th grade (and beyond) for polish and complexity. That’s not what this year was about. This year has been a year of hard labor: these girls (and our other Shosties too) have built a shared structure that will allow them to explore all that music has to offer – as a team.