TCS Is Alive with the Sound of Music

“Music is the one art we all have inside. We may not be able to play an instrument, but we can sing along or clap or tap our feet. Have you ever seen a baby bouncing up and down in the crib in time to some music? When you think of it, some of that baby’s first messages from their parents may have been lullabies, or at least the music of their speaking voices. All of us have had the experience of hearing a tune from childhood and having that melody evoke a memory or a feeling. The music we hear early on tends to stay with us all our lives.” —Fred Rogers

As Mr. Rogers wisely pointed out, music is indeed the one art we all have inside—which is why music plays such a fundamental role in every child’s learning and growth at TCS. We know how the sounds of voices singing and instruments playing miraculously unleash a child’s feet, hands and body—not to mention the joy of self-expression. A wonderful piece of music, for adults and the young alike, stirs our souls and evokes our deepest emotions. The cellist Pablo Casals felt that “music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”

We celebrated the power of passionate rhythms and melodies during our Musician-in-Residence week, which brought in a variety of talented artists to share their instruments and musical styles with our students.

Our celebration opened with an exploration of traditional Chinese music, played by two virtuosic musicians from the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York, the oldest and largest Chinese orchestra in the U.S. Wei Sun and Feifei Yang introduced students to the unique sounds of two ancient instruments, the guzheng (zither) and the erhu (two-string fiddle), and shared a variety of melodies from different regions of China. Our guests were exceptional musicians in the Chinese tradition and have found ways to use their talents in new genres and cultural contexts. Wei Sun leads a trio, MISS, that blends Western and Chinese instruments and plays the guzheng in the Broadway show Noble Family. Feifei Wang is a lead cast member on the Emmy Award-winning TV series We Speak NYC, which tells the stories of immigrants, and performs in New York City as a jazz and pop vocalist.

The children were enthralled as a harpist and alumni parent, Lisa Tannebaum, played classical pieces for them, captivated by the instrument’s shimmering, cascading sound. It was a special thrill for them to see a young harpist at TCS join Lisa in a few duets, and after the recital, several students expressed an enthusiastic interest in learning to play the harp. Lisa is the president of Music in the Woods, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the community with musical performances at Treetops Performance Center and providing educational opportunities for music students.

Ebullient music educators Jake and Kate Goldbas lead the children in an energizing drum circle and sing-along. Kate is an opera singer and loves engaging young children in songs and musical storytelling. Jake is a drummer who shared a variety of percussion instruments with the children and introduced them to all the instruments that make up a band. Jake is also the artistic director for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens and director of education programs for the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College.

It was a joy to have all four children in the talented Chiodo family step up to the music stands to play their violins together. They were accompanied by their teacher, Andrea Gomez, who teaches Suzuki violin and has played with symphony orchestras in both her native Columbia and the U.S. It was inspiring for our students to see recent alumni, and a current classmate, playing this difficult instrument with such poise and confidence. They even learned that it’s possible to dance while playing the violin.

The multi-talented Katie Fabel, a TCS parent, gave a captivating performance of Italian arias that demonstrated for the children the passion and richness of opera as a classical art form. She also picked up her guitar and shared sing-along favorites like Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.” A transplant to the U.S. from London, Katie is an actor, singer, stand-up comedian and songwriter who has performed on stages on and off Broadway and in the East End.

Percussionist Gyasi Govan, also known as Mr. G, visited to play the jembe, a West African goblet drum. He delighted the children by showing them the variety of sounds one can make with the jembe, correlating them to the movements of different animals, and invited everyone to take a turn playing the drum. Mr. G teaches leadership skills in middle schools as a youth speaker and creates YouTube videos to engage children in helping with household chores and developing responsibility.

Everyone in the TCS community had a chance to clap, sing and dance to the music at our exuberant Family Concert with the Swingset Mamas. Led by beloved TCS music teacher Lizzie Swan and her songwriting partner Marlowe Bechmann, the Swingset Mamas have been creating toe-tapping tunes and catchy lyrics since 1999. The Mamas’ exceptional musicianship and upbeat message shine through in their four infectious albums, award-winning videos, story songbooks and performances for devoted fans around Connecticut and the surrounding region.

Making and enjoying music is one of the childhood pleasures that carries forward with us, often blooming into a lifelong passion. The enthusiasm of our visiting musicians was inspiring, cultivating our students’ appreciation for different musical traditions while communicating the message that music is a global language.

Here’s to the music that will stay with us for all our lives,