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:: Teaching Composition - Award-Winning Projects ::

The Tiger Project

Kinder zum Olymp!Awarded the "Kinder zum Olymp!“ prize 2011

An old woman finds a magical coin that fill hers pot with rice every day. A tiger wants to steal the coin, and the old woman is getting very scared. Yet suddenly, the things in her kitchen become alive to help her against the mighty tiger...

The Leipzig Gewandhaus' department of musical education joined with the Leipzig Reclam high school and the sociocultural center Haus Steinstrasse for an unusual cross-genre cooperative project, based on the Chinese tale "Fighting the Tiger" and Aristides Strongylis' work of the same title.

Der Kampf mit dem TigerThe complexity of both the story and the composition opened up various perspectives for creative interpretation, with visual, musical, textual, and sculptural means being used equally. Every child could discover his or her artistic potential in various spheres - music, theater, design - and be inspired by working with professional musicians and artists.

The students of Leipzig Reclam-Gymnasium developed their own musical themes for the tale's protagonists and juxtaposed them with the composer's version. Based on these student compositions, the children and young people of the "Fall Obst" drama group then created their very own dramatic interpretation of the Chinese tale. By tackling the tale's subject and its innate cruelty, the young people produced a completely new play that was performed professionally at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and other venues.

Statements by young members of the drama group:

It was such a horrid tale. I think what we've made of it is rad. Now I'm totally in love with the play. --- Saskia
The tiger's dead and everyone's happy. This needed a different ending! --- Nele
Playing an object is awful. How can you play a pea? Who likes to make a pea of oneself? --- Marie

Haus Steinstrasse e.V.The idea to produce not only the music but also the stage design and a theater play complete with guide book for young audiences could be realised thanks to the co-operation with Leipzig sociocultural center Haus Steinstraße e.V. Its team of skilled professionals happily contributed their longtime experience in arts and cultural education to make this project truly special

Gewandhaus zu LeipzigFor the students of grade 6/1 of Reclam-Gymnasium highschool, the project was part of their regular music classes. According to their skills and likings, the students could try their hands at composition, design, and musical play. Thus they not only created the music and the play, but also the stage design and costumes, an audience guide, and a media blog that reported on the ongoing project work. In the intermission, the audience could marvel at and purchase crafts inspired by the tale and hand-made by the students.

Gewandhaus Leipzig, musical education – Franziska Vorberger (direction), Mara Muck (assistant)
Haus Steinstraße e.V., Leipzig – Ulrike Bernard (direction), Katharina Köhler (theater), Anne Fröhlke (young audience guide book), Anja Scholz (stage design and costumes), Helene Scharge (ceramics and stage design)
Drama group "Fall Obst“ of Haus Steinstraße e.V. (children of 8-12 years)
Reclam-Gymnasium Leipzig, grade 6/1 – Josephine Klein (class teacher)

Premiere: April 9, 2011, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus
Further performances: May 7, 2011, at the Dach­Theater of Haus Steinstraße; September 9, 2011, at Leipzig theater "Schille“

© Gewandhaus zu Leipzig

Monsieur Mathieu - A Special Children's Choir Project

"junge ohren" networkAwarded the "junge ohren“ prize 2010

The French film "The Chorus" portrays a teacher who sets up a choir project at a school for "difficult" children. The film's great success resulted in a steep rise in membership applications with youth choirs all over Europe, also at the Leipzig opera. The way the film's teacher Monsieur Mathieu motivated the children to discover their own skills apparently encouraged many children to try out their own musical talents.

In 2009/10, the Leipzig opera started an education project inspired by the film. Leipzig children from various backgrounds, among them a school for speech therapy and one for the visually impaired, have developed a play as an acted-out musical answer to the 2004 French film. The project entitled "Monsieur Mathieu, was wird?" (Monsieur Mathieu, what will be?) wants to get young generations from all backgrounds in touch with music and invite them, just as Mathieu did, to explore their own abilities. The opera's children's choir performed songs from the film score together with the Gewandhaus orchestra, with generous support of the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Foundation.

In November 2010, the project was awarded a second prize (with no first prize being awarded) by the German musical education network "junge ohren" (young ears) - the junge ohren preis 2010.

Drama workshop: Anett Seidel | Composition workshop: Aristides Strongylis | Children's choir director: Sophie Bauer | Musical direction: Pawel Poplawski.

Children's Choir of the Leipzig Opera | Children of the 16th Leipzig Secondary School, the Filatow-School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Käthe Kollwitz Speech Therapy School | Gewandhaus orchestra.

Premiere of the play on June 17, 2010, in a school concert. A second concert took place on Sunday, June 20, as part of the opera's Children's Day, with musical workshops for all young visitors.

The Butterfly Workshop

Kinder zum Olymp!Awarded the "Kinder zum Olymp!“ prize 2009

Gioconda Belli's prizewinning children's book The Butterfly Workshop tells a story about the creation of animals and plants. In the insects' design workshop we meet the young designer Rodolfo. Rodolfo is dreaming of a very special being that can fly like a bird and is pretty like a flower. But the rules for creature designers are strict, and Rodolfo must defend and stand in for his idea of creating the butterfly. The Butterfly Workshop is thus also a book on creativity, team spirit and originality.

Inspired by this book, sixty children of the Leipzig elementary school „Clara Schumann“ created their very own dance theater production. From the very beginning, the third and fourth graders, supported by professional musicians from the school of music and arts "Clara Schumann", were responsible for every artistic detail. They were actors, dancers, musicians, screenplay writers, directors and stage designers. Under the artistic guidance of Aristides Strongylis they also composed the music for the stage production themselves.

Each child picked a character or task to work on, diving deeply into it, shaping and developping it according to his or her own ideas. Thus the text, the choreography, the music and the stage design were devised and created by the children, in constant interaction with the other children's task groups and the mentoring team. Finally the dialogues that originated in improvisation, the ideas and movements, and last not least the music were written down in a collectively devised screenplay. The teaching staff involved took great care only to act as moderators in the creative process, enabling the children to realize their own creative ideas as freely as possible.

In Germany's nation-wide contest „Kinder zum Olymp“ the Butterfly Workshop was awarded first prize in the category grades 1-4 (elementary schools)! There is even a ten-minute video of the performance here.

Project direction: Uta Zimmermann (applied drama), Annett Paschke (choreography), Aristides Strongylis (composition), and Mona Enayat (stage design, props)

First performance: June 14, 2008 at the Leipzig Centraltheater

Musinnale - MUSIC with All Senses

Scriabin's musical colorsMusinnale is a highschool art and music project directed by Aristides Strongylis, in co-operation with art and culture teachers.

For half a year, the students intensively deal with contemporary music of the 20th century and non-European musical cultures. They listen to a wide range of modernist works from Debussy to Steve Reich, but also to pieces from countries such as Turkey, Argentina, or Japan. They are moreover encouraged to gather information about composers and schools, and to present it in class. These encounters with an entirely “different” music – in terms of space and time – might seem unusual at first, yet hopefully enables them to draw parralels and see a common ground. The students thus broaden their horizon beyond their own, predominantly Western, musical background.

At the end of the first phase, each student choses a work of music that personally inspires him or her. Assisted by teachers of art and culture, the students subsequently design and craft their own art project. The Musinnale’s finale is an exhibition of the art created during the project. This is done in an elaborate performance of two to three hours length, displaying the inspirational music and the artworks inspired by it, thus enabling the audience to perceive them as a synthesis of the arts.

Aim of the project is a transfer of music into other forms of art, especially the visual arts. Moreover, it tries to breach the boundaries between school subjects. This is based on the insight that music is not perceived by the sense of hearing alone, but with all senses. Consequently, the German project title Musinnale connects MUSIK will all SINNE – senses. Musinnale encourages students to overcome pointless categorizing and express their own musical perception and listening experience in a visual and artistic way as well.

The project connects two worlds that are usually conceived as strictly divided. The best example for bridging the divide is Modest Mussorg­sky’s famous “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Musinnale goes the opposite way: not from art to music, but from music to works of art.

la mia opera – The Children’s Opera

logo la mia operaA fully-fledged opera, by kids only? That may sound odd, yet the kids of “la mia opera” have done exactly that. They devised, wrote, composed, and texted their very own opera. They designed and made stage settings and costumes, and after developping and rehearsing for months, they staged a three-act one-hour opera.

Entitled “Friendship Will Win“, the opera was played and acclaimed by audiences at Augustusburg near Chemnitz, Leipzig, Schwarzenberg, and Dresden.

Third and fourth graders that had little to no previous knowledge about opera got to know the artistic process involved in creating a musical work, to the extent of producing an opera good enough for stage. Artists and teachers from all areas, such as writing, composition, stage and design, assisted them in implementing their ideas. Within this, Aristides Strongylis was responsible for all questions related to composing, writing scores, and putting musical ideas on paper.

Learn more on the project’s website (German only).