My name is JeanCaleb. Some of you may know this already but I’m doing an internship at Castle of our Skins through June. I’ve been working with COOS for a little under a month now designing social media posts, researching, and performing.
On February 12, I had the opportunity to be a teaching artist along with COOS’ founder and Artistic Director Ashleigh Gordon presenting “A Little History” for an audience of tiny humans at Boston's Children's Museum. A Little History tells the simplified stories of nine legendary figures in Black History: Phillis Wheatley Peters, Garrett Morgan, Madam C. J. Walker, George Washington Carver, Margaret Bonds, Ed Bland, Angela Davis, Bayard Rustin, & Barack Obama. Through original music, poetry and interaction, students are encouraged to get up and move, sing, clap, invent, and play make-believe as they learn about these historic individuals. I learned recently that this was COOS’ signature piece; premiered back in their first season; written by Associate Artistic Director Anthony R. Green for Ashe to perform for school groups. It’s been performed for hundreds of students in their past 10 seasons.
In preparation for our performance Ashe and I rehearsed together. First looking at the music it didn't seem hard. I was immediately humbled, however, by Ashe who put a tuning app on for me to play with. It made me realize my intonation needed some help, to say the least. After this, I downloaded that same app and drilled the pieces with the tuner to get more confident.
When I arrived at the BCM I got my name tag and met up with Ashe who was a short walk away from the door. We talked a bit then she introduced me to our contact at the museum. My mom met up with us eventually after she found parking.
It was about 25-30 minutes until the show. We were shown to the green room which was just a side room near the stage. As I unpacked and tuned, Ashe got situated with her mic and slides. Once she was done she also unpacked and tuned.
We went through the show for an audience of my mom,Vaughan Bradley-Willemann , and another lady (that I learned later was museum president Carole Charnow). The run-through went well, though it was a bit awkward for me just because it was a new space and I didn't really know how my sound should adapt to it. However after a few minutes of playing I was fine.
As the clock was counting down until doors opened, my hands started to feel cold, which was normal for me before I performed. Ashe gave me a little pep talk about how her hands also get cold and we warmed our hands together for a while as people started to come in. As we walk on stage I start to feel less nervous. It wasn’t a huge venue and the crowd wasn’t crazy large.
We got through the first piece and it was okay. Some of the younger kids were making noise and just being kids so that was kinda distracting. At some point during the transition between one of the historical figures and the next, I had to set my instrument down off stage. When I went back to grab it, I plucked the strings just to check and of course my instrument somehow got out of tune while it was sitting there. The show was still happening next to me, and I didnt want to make a lot of noise. I desperately tried to get my viola in tune but it was just not working. I went on stage, viola still not tuned, when Ashe saw me struggling. She offered to switch roles, with her playing my part and me helping with the children. We got through it and the rest of the show went smoothly (thank god).
To be honest, I was a little hesitant to accept this performance offer only because I have trouble connecting with small children. They're so unpredictable and squirmy; it makes me all weird and awkward and it’s hard to interact. But, I think this performance was a stepping stone for me in a way, even though I still feel the same way about kids as I did before. Now that I have this experience working with them, I feel like my next experience will be so much better.
It was an honor to perform with Ashe and I'm so grateful to her and everyone at Castle of our Skins for giving me these amazing opportunities. I look forward to the next few months working with them
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