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Randolph Middle School Choir Students Virtually Met with Renowned Composers Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory

Randolph Middle School’s 7th and 8th grade choirs are currently learning an arrangement of “Carrickfergus” composed by Paul Caldwell, Artistic Director of the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, and Sean Ivory, Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus. Together, the two composers have created many compositions that have been performed by many of the world’s finest ensembles. On Friday, our choir students had the unique opportunity to connect with Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Ivory virtually to learn more about the composition they are currently working on and to gain greater perspective on the life of a composer.

“Carrickfergus” is an Irish folk song that captures the old-world charm of Ireland. It is a favorite among honors choirs, and we were able to connect with a few of our students this morning to learn more about their experience speaking with Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Ivory. RMS 8th Grader Alexa Rowe enjoys the diversity represented in the composers’ arrangements and compositions. “I liked learning from the composers because they base some of their work on social justice issues,” Alexa said. “I think this is important because there are a lot of things happening in our world right now, some things that are bad and some things that are good, and I think those issues often don’t have their voices heard. Through music, we can bring awareness to many of these issues and that’s really cool.” RMS 7th Grader Claire Carey added, “I didn’t know how long it took to actually compose a song. They have to send it back and forth so many times to change things which I thought that was really interesting to learn.” RMS 7th Grader Richie Torrente agreed with Claire saying, “I also thought it was interesting learning how long it takes to make a song because everyone has this vision of a composer that it just comes to them naturally and they just write it down. Just knowing that it takes anywhere from a month to three months to create a song is really impressive because it just shows how much effort that goes into each song that is made.”

Randolph Schools has been fortunate to have been named one of the best communities for music education for the past 7 consecutive years by the NAMM Foundation. Opportunities to engage with experts provide real world context that help Randolph continue to innovate in music education and to prepare students for life after Randolph. “Music connects to me on a personal level,” Alexa said. “I always have loved music but I didn’t start choir until the 6th grade where I realized that I really enjoyed to sing. Meeting with these composers helped me to learn that there are a lot of people just like me. It’s not just my own passion, but there are actually people all over the world who love music. It made me think maybe I can do this someday as a career. Maybe I can make a song. Maybe this could be me one day. I too could become a composer if I really wanted to, and that made me really happy to realize.”

The hands-on experience would not have been possible without Director of Choirs Ann Kelly. She has made a transformative difference in the lives of her students, and she cares about each individual’s personal potential and growth. “I really love music at RMS. Miss Kelly is just amazing and I love everyone I get to sing with,” Alexa said. “I am sad to leave middle school because I don’t want to go just yet. However, in high school I definitely will continue music because of my experience at the middle school. Claire added, “Miss Kelly is the best music teacher in the world. It’s very fun to sing at the middle school, and I really like the music we get to perform. I am really happy to be a part of this.” Richie followed up to Claire and Alexa’s remarks saying, “Despite the shutdown, I really like that I still get to hang out with my friends and connect about music. The fact that we can still sing with others is really important to all of us, and a really cool thing I am thankful for.”

We sincerely appreciate Ms. Kelly for arranging this opportunity, and for Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Ivory for volunteering their time to connect with our students.