Music and poetry unite in student-composed celebrations of #SweetBriarForever Month

Favorite places and inspiration are easily found on Sweet Briar’s expansive campus.
Favorite places and inspiration are easily found on Sweet Briar’s expansive campus.

Student instrumentalists and composers from the Sweet Briar College Chamber Orchestra will explore the meaning and values they associate with special places on Sweet Briar’s campus in a concert titled “Music & Poetry of Place.” The event takes place from 8-9 p.m. Thursday, March 31, in the 1948 Theater in the Fitness and Athletics Center as part of the College’s #SweetBriarForever festivities.

Assistant professor of music and chamber orchestra director Jeff Jones says the artistic concept for the concert was inspired by a Summer Honors Research project conducted by violist Savanna Klein ’16. Klein was looking for ways to combine her interests in environmental science and creative writing.

“I remember thinking at the time that her ideas could easily be adapted into a great project for instrumentalists and composers in Sweet Briar’s Chamber Orchestra,” Jones says. “Also, at the beginning of the academic year, many of us on campus were feeling nostalgic about, and appreciative of, our favorite spots on campus. That seemed like a good catalyst for creative work.”

“Music & Poetry of Place” was inspired Savanna Klein’s honors project.
“Music & Poetry of Place” was inspired by Savanna Klein’s honors project.

The ideas his students came up with fit together nicely, he adds, so the group combined them to create this program for the 2015-2016 concert season.

However, there were many more steps to creating the final concert people will experience on March 31.

“To approach the project, I first asked orchestra students to select a place on campus that they found meaningful. They could choose any place they liked, but given that we have a beautiful and spacious campus, I especially encouraged natural areas.”

Kate Macklin, director of Sweet Briar’s Outdoor Programs, visited Jones’ orchestra class to talk about the College’s natural spaces and led a guided tour of some of them. Jones and his students then discussed meanings and values associated with the places they were drawn to, and came up with ways these places could be represented artistically.

“During this phase of the project, Denise Von Glahn — a musicologist who has written quite a bit about women who have composed music about the natural world and significant places within it — came to Sweet Briar as part of the Lectures and Events series,” Jones recalls. “In addition to her lecture, Denise met with students to workshop their project ideas.”

Next, students were encouraged to create or select poetry that resonated “with some aspect of their relationship to their chosen place.” Finally, students composed or selected their music.

The concert will feature five selections. Each selection opens with the students discussing their intentions and creative process. All of them, Jones says, worked within the same basic creative framework, but their projects “went in delightfully different directions.”

The resulting compositions include elements as varied as video, photography or poetry recitations. Some works are solos; others are multi-performer collaborations, and all feature differences in melodic, rhythmic, textural, dynamic and structural features.

“It’s been a great project,” Jones says. “I’m happy to now share it with the Sweet Briar community.”

For more information, please email Jones at jjones@sbc.edu.