“Can you paint all the colors of the wind?” Sixth grade visual art students at Discovery Middle School are probably closer than the rest of us to answering the thought-provoking question posed by songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz in the lyrical ballad All the Colors of the Wind from the Walt Disney movie Pocahontas.
On September 21, the Discovery sixth graders involved in visual art classes let their artistic creations communicate emotions and feelings inspired by music they heard performed live in their classroom by world-class musicians.
Violinist Benjamin Sung and pianist Jihye Chang Sung gave a private concert for the Discovery students during their art class. Discovery art instructor Steven Knutson had met the two musicians when the three artists were previously paired up for The Arts Partnership CSA (Community Sponsored Art) program. The live performance and art creation event for the Discovery students grew out of an idea shared by Chang Sung, with further details added by the Discovery art teachers.
The two musicians played pieces of classical music by Bach, Paganini, and Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaÿe for the Discovery visual art students on the 21st. The students were asked to listen to each piece and meditate on what they heard, concentrating on what emotions and intellectual responses the music may have evoked. The musicians then played the compositions a second time for the students, and while listening to each piece, the students used provided art materials to create an artistic response to the music in their sketchbooks. The students were asked to communicate with both color and pattern, letting go of inhibitions and preconceived notions about art and music and simply letting their own creativity flow.
The following day in art class, the students discussed the music, their emotional responses, and their sketchbook artwork with one another. What color is happiness? Does a zig zag line or a squiggle best represent solitude? Can orange convey both energy and endings?
As a final activity for the project, students were assigned to small groups and then asked to collaborate on a final piece of art that combined the emotional responses of each member of the group and their visual representations of the music they heard.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students to work with world-class musicians,” shared Knutson. “The students responded well to the activity and they really did a great job of collaborating together to create group paintings the next day in class. I would love to be able to do this project again in the future.”
These final group paintings will be on display at Discover Middle School in the weeks ahead for all to view.
All photos courtesy Steven Knutson.
Guest Musicians: Pianist Jihye Chang Sung has appeared as soloist and collaborative artist in venues throughout the United States, Canada, Korea, France, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Her performances and recordings have been broadcast around the world on television. She has appeared as a soloist with the Wonjoo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Virtuosi of Festival Internacionale de Musica in Recife, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, Fargo Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the Sun-Hwa Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hot Springs Festival Ensemble.
Assistant Professor of Violin at Florida State University, violinist Benjamin Sung is also concertmaster of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and violin coordinator of the Brevard Music Center and principal second violin of the Brevard Music Center Orchestra. Recent concert highlights include the 2017 Brevard Music Festival; the first annual Festival y Academia del Nuevo Mundo in Aruba; an appearance with the FSU University Symphony Orchestra in Piazzolla’s Estaciones Portenas for the 2016 ASTA National Conference; and a TED talk for TEDx Fargo.