Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers Program

Mike Lawson • News • November 23, 2016

Share This:

Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers program introduces students in grades K–2 to different cultures through music.

Thousands of New York City elementary school students in grades K–2 will visit Zankel Hall for interactive concerts as part of Musical Explorers, an inventive program developed by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute that builds basic music skills in the classroom as children learn songs from different cultures, reflect on their own communities, and develop singing and listening skills. Each semester, students meet three New York City-based artists who each represent a different musical genre and cultural tradition. This fall, students were introduced to bluegrass music with Michael Daves, Chinese traditional music with Qian Yi, and Sudanese celebration songs with Alsarah. In the spring, students will shift their focus to calypso with Etienne Charles, Armenian folk music with a cappella trio Zulal, and hip-hop with Circa ’95, culminating in concerts on May 9–12, 2017. This season, the Musical Explorers program will reach more than 5,000 students in classrooms across New York City.

The Musical Explorers curriculum encompasses skills-based and creative activities that can be integrated into both general and music classrooms. Participating educators attend two professional development workshops and receive a Teacher Guide with lesson plans, background information about the artists and their featured musical styles, links to related resources in New York City and beyond, and a companion CD with songs from each unit and supporting learning tracks. Each child receives a Student Guide full of hands-on activities, photographs, and illustrations that support active learning. The program culminates in a series of high-energy, interactive concerts held in Zankel Hall at the end of each semester.

Joyce DiDonato Master Classes Organizations around the country are also adapting Musical Explorers for use in their own communities, working with Carnegie Hall to develop versions of the program that feature artists and cultures from their own areas. Carnegie Hall is currently partnering with the Savannah Music Festival in Savannah, Georgia, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California, Omaha Performing Arts in Omaha, Nebraska and The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut, bringing the total number of students served by Musical Explorers to over 15,000 across the United States during the 2016–2017 season.

About the Fall 2016 Musical Explorers Artists

Michael Daves has been called “a leading light of the New York bluegrass scene” by The New York Times. He has worked with Chris Thile, Steve Martin, Tony Trischka, and Rosanne Cash in addition to performing solo and with his own band. Michael’s 2011 debut album with Thile, Sleep with One Eye Open, received a 2011 Grammy Award nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. His latest album, Orchids and Violence, features 12 bluegrass tunes, each recorded in two versions: acoustic and electric.

Qian Yi began her study of classical kunqu (Kunnan opera) at the Shanghai Chinese Opera School at age 10. Since coming to the US, she has performed classical and contemporary Chinese theater at the Lincoln Center Festival, where she played the lead role in the 19-hour opera Peony Pavilion; the Kennedy Center; and Spoleto Festival. The New York Times has called Qian Yi, “China’s reigning opera princess.” In 2008, Qian Yi made her western opera debut in the title role of The Bonesetter’s Daughter at the San Francisco Opera. In 2013, she created and produced a contemporary Chinese musical called Dreaming of the Phoenix for the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery.

Alsarah was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and came to the US at age 12. She plays a style of music she calls East-African retro-pop, which draws on Sudanese and other East African traditions. She and her band, Alsarah and The Nubatones, released their debut album, Silt, in 2014. Alsarah also works with The Nile Project, whose debut release, Aswan, was named one of the top five must-hear international albums of 2013 by NPR.

About the Spring 2017 Musical Explorers Artists

Born in Trinidad, Etienne Charles is a trumpet player, composer, and bandleader whose music fuses jazz with his Afro-Caribbean roots, encompassing a rainbow of musical dialects in an improvisation-fused setting. He has recorded three albums, including Kaiso, which features the music of calypso legends Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, and Roaring Lion. As a sideman, Etienne has performed with numerous jazz and calypso luminaries. In June 2012, Etienne was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad and Tobago and the world. He received a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship. He is an assistant professor of jazz trumpet at Michigan State University.

Zulal, which means “clear water,” is an a cappella trio that features Teni Apelian, Yeraz Markarian, and Anaïs Tekerian. The trio rearranges and reimagines traditional Armenian folk melodies, and has been singing together since 2002. Zulal has performed at major venues such as the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington, DC and New York’s Symphony Space, and collaborated with Cirque du Soleil and the Silk Road Project. Zulal has also scored the film Stone, Time, Touch and recently released its third album, Seven Springs.

Hailing from New York City, Circa ’95 is the hip-hop duo of Reph Starr and Patty Dukes. Dominican and Puerto Rican by way of the Bronx and Washington Heights, they rhyme seamlessly in both Spanish and English. They have performed with artists like MC Lyte, KRS-One, Pitbull, Anita Tijoux, and Mala Rodriguez, and have been featured on the HBO Latino shows Road Trip and Habla Ya. The duo’s debut album Free Lunch was released in 2011. Reph and Patty also teach hip-hop, theater, and mixed media arts to young people through their organization, the Rhyme Factory.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!