Young gifted artists like the ones that fill the halls and classrooms of Osceola County School for the Arts can spend each school day learning and expanding their talents and passion for the arts.
It’s one thing to sing, or to be proficient in playing an instrument, or to compose music, but it’s something entirely different to do it so well that your drive is about performing and sharing that gift with others.
So when arts-based students hear from someone who’s gone down that “performance” road, and found success miles down it, they ask questions and absorb whatever they can.
Or, in the case of Gabriel Kahane, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence, it can work in a different direction, as he and OCSA students found out recently when Mr. Kahane visited Osceola County’s School for the Arts.
Kahane, who has established himself as a songwriter over the last decade, will lead the Orlando Philharmonic in performing his concert oratorio “emergency shelter intake form,” which brings light to the subject of homelessness and housing insecurity, on March 21 in in Orlando.
Ahead of that, Kahane hosted an afternoon of round table discussions with OCSA students on their role in society and how it is impacted by music.
Normally, he would spend the time fielding questions from the students seeking life lessons as a performer. Kahane, who has collaborated with a list of artists, including Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Blake Mills, and Chris Thile – the front man of Punch Brothers, has written works for ensembles such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York’s Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, turned the tables on the students, picking their young brains for information.
“This is as valuable as playing at Carnegie Hall,” the Brooklyn native said. “I wouldn’t call it teaching, I call it being a sponge around young minds.”
Since current high-schoolers have lived an entire life thus far in the social media age, he asked for their perspective on how the internet dominates life now.
“In my high school there was no Google and web browsers were rudimentary,” he said. “I want to know if a life of convenience comes with the hidden cost of privacy issues.”
The common thread coming from students was the being scared of writing or releasing their own music to others — a very common anxiety of musicians. Kahane’s advice: write, play and sing on, even if it’s not for anybody else.
“There are people who have deep musical roots who will never perform a day in their lives,” he said. “There is a message in it, sometimes it’s political, and you have to meet the audience without lecturing to them. I can see words on a page and hear music.”
According to a review from when “emergency shelter intake form” was first performed in Oregon, the piece places the audience as an imagined person trying to gain entry into a homeless shelter, asking them to empathize with experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty.
On March 21 at the Bob Carr Theatre in Orlando, Composer-in-Residence Gabriel Kahane’s Emergency Shelter Intake Form will feature Alicia Hall Moran, who made her Broadway debut in Porgy and Bess, along with a choir of members inspired by the issues of homelessness. Kahane’s piece shines an essential light on our society through music that will inspire, bring hope, and stir the soul. Tickets can be purchased here.