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Students Jam On, with Plenty of Moxie

Performers Urge Orchestra Students to Improvise

Forest Hills Eastern High orchestra students joined forces recently with The Moxie Strings for a night of upbeat contemporary music. But before they did, they spent time jamming together at school.

Moxies violinist Diana Ladio and Alison Lynn on electric cello led clinics with the orchestra at Eastern High for two days, as well as at Eastern Middle and Orchard View Elementary.

“This is powerful, you guys!” said Ladio during rehearsal with Anne Thompson’s orchestra students. “There’s so much good sound coming out of so many people right now.”

The pair whooped and stomped as they guided students through the songs they would perform that evening, and encouraged them to improvise as the music moved them, whatever the genre.

Jake Doctor on cello follows along with Alison Lynn and Diana Ladio

“Letting your bow just travel and taking some risks … before you know it you will hear something you really like,” Ladio said. “And then you’ll be writing music.”

The Moxie Strings, often joined by percussionist Fritz McGirr, have performed all over the Midwest, including at many Celtic and Irish festivals, as well as a recent tour in Ireland.

Soon after forming in 2007, the ensemble was inspired to teach young musicians. They have led clinics in more than 100 schools throughout the U.S., and also present on their research and methodologies to teachers at many music education professional development conferences.

Their clinics focus on musical self-discovery and the importance of incorporating socially and culturally relevant genres in the classroom. The group has created a sequence of activities designed to introduce improvisation to classically trained musicians, which they put in practice at every clinic.

“The reason to bring them in is to share a whole different style than what they learn in an orchestra setting,” Thompson said. “They do a great job explaining the concepts of blues.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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