Fairy Tales of Art and Music

The second floor of the school is buzzing with sound and color. Between Ms. Kelly’s glorious choir with piano accompaniment sending music through the hallway and down the stairwells, and student paintings drying along the edges of the floor, inspiration is here for the taking!

Earlier this year, our elementary students attended the San Antonio Symphony to hear Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a piece about an Arabian princess who was so brilliant, she was able to tell stories for 1,001 nights to spare her life. When the youngest group, new to elementary, came to art class, they were all-a-chatter about their first field trip to the symphony. They were desperate to convey the lovely Princess Scheherazade’s plight and dramatize the reaction they had to the big “BOOM”. For the last five years, we have participated in the San Antonio Symphony’s “Paint to Music” program. We submit artworks created while listening to great works of music they have chosen like Peter and the Wolf, Debussy’s Nuages, Carmen, and Billy the Kid just to name a few. The symphony presents the students’ works by projecting them on a large wall above the musicians as they play. It’s a wonderful program, and we will participate again this year.

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Currently, we are working on large paintings that will be stapled back to back to make portfolios. The students have still-life objects of plants and plastic animals available to sketch, and a variety of watered down paint to create loosely colored, vibrant paintings. Once dry, with Sharpies they re-draw their initial pencil drawings, or enhance their painted forms, adding eyes and details to animals, or draw borders on houses and clouds, etc. The work takes great concentration on their part, as well as courtesy and awareness as they are maneuvering around the room with cups of water and sloshy paint.

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When this young group arrived that day after their symphony trip, their energy was so high, I knew I needed a special approach to help them get focused and in the flow of their work. I quickly found a YouTube version of Scheherazade, plugged it into the art room speakers, and quieted the class with the promise of something very special. Once they arranged their paintings and materials and began to work, settling in with quiet suspense, I hit “play”. Scheherazade begins with an intense announcement with a chorus of horns, followed by the willowy voice of the princess captured in a single violin melody. The children froze, with jaws dropped. Then they became engrossed in their work. As colors and drama swooped from their brushes they spoke softly like seasoned storytellers, relaying how the music depicted what was happening with their fairy-tale hero Scheherazade. They paused about a third of the way through the piece, anticipating the big BOOM of the bass drum, which did not fail, sending them into complete delight!

What a lovely work period we had. Every class since, they ask right away, “Ms. Kate, can we PLEASE listen to Scheherazade again today?” And we do. Each time, as soon as the music begins, they momentarily freeze in wonder then flow into the rhythm of their work.  Soon, I must pull out some different music I keep up my sleeve like Ravel’s “Bolero”, Saint-Saens  “Carnival of the Animals”, and Schumann’s “Kinderszenen”.

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One night, I went to my studio just to check on something. The clock radio stays on 24/7, tuned to either of our TPR stations. Just as I was about to leave, the introductory chorus of horns announced Scheherazade. I froze! Then came the princess’ lyrical plea with the violin. I was going nowhere. I was overcome with inspiration, and a sense of obligation to the piece of music itself to create. I anticipated the big boom and carried on in wonder.

Click here to listen to the version I have been playing for our students.

-Kate Terrell / Art Director

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