Meet the Interns: Mateen Milan

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Meet the Interns: Mateen Milan

Mateen Milan is one of the teaching interns here at orchkids for our summer program. Today is Mateen’s last day working with us until the fall, but hopefully he will be coming back to help later in the fall. 

Mateen, Let me start off by thanking you for being available to participate in this interview. Could you just tell us a little history of yourself, where you are from, where you currently go to school, what you’d like to do when you’re finished with school?

I’m from East Baltimore and I am currently going to the Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA), I’m in my last year. After high school, I plan on just completely jumping into a conservatory or university, like Boston University, New England Conservatory or Peabody Conservatory. I would also like to possibly start my own project like OrchKids in another city or state.

That’s great! Do you feel that BSA has prepared you for college?

BSA has definitely helped me with my time management and prioritizing, so that in a hectic time, I can effectively manage what I need to do to get around everything.

When you arrive at Orchkids, what is your daily schedule like?

That’s very flexible, I usually work with the smaller, Mary Ann Winterling kids, so around 8:30 I work with Ms. Karen on Violin and Trumpet, and Mr. Easy with their production, because they are working on something small. I also work with the OrchKids’ Bucket Band, and they go outside and that’s a crazy situation right there! From there, they go to chorus with Pete, which is fun. Then they go to lunch and they take the ones that need leave back to the front door and go back outside with them. I like to switch it up and work with the older kids at their orchestra rehearsal because one of my students is in there and I feel a connection with her because we are both bassoonists.

Do you prefer to work with the older kids? 

It does not matter to me, because honestly, with the older students, it is just a connection, like seeing old friends, so I have no problem meeting and working with them. With the younger kids, it is a lot more sentimental; seeing and growing with them and making bonds. There’s this one kid named Junior that I love! But again, it doesn’t matter how old they are to me.

Apart from ‘loving’ your students, how do you handle situations where they might be misbehaving?

I don’t really consider it to be misbehaving, I just understand that more often than not, it’s a miscommunication; a small situation that has turned into a big one. There’s been a bunch of times that one of the students will have found something small that is wrong with a situation and all of the sudden the student will loose all interest in playing, or like Junior gets pinched and now he’s in a bad mood. So again, I don’t really see it as bad behavior, it’s just something happened that was a trigger, which can easily make the students shut off.

Interesting, so how do you reward good behavior?

Good behavior? I love good behavior, so like, when one of my students did really well in her rehearsal, I had known she’d really wanted to play an etude, so I printed it out for her and worked through it with her. Anytime she just genuinely wants help, you know, I do my best.

How many kids do you teach personally?

Between 10 and 12, depending on the day and what they are doing.

Do you see yourself continuing in your teaching career in the future?

Oh yeah, of course. I understand that the cycle of a musician, basketball player, or anything really, is to learn. expand on it, and then teach it. So for me, there has never been a doubt in my mind that I will be teaching in the future, I’m just going to do it for the rest of my life.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to add to the blog?

Bring your kids to Orchkids!!

CEME Creative Composition Workshop

RachelCEME Creative Composition Workshop

Rachel Mangold is a teaching artist and Double Bassist at OrchKids. Last Monday she led a Creative Composition workshop as a part of our CEME conference which I had the pleasure of attending. Following the workshop, I asked Rachel a few questions regarding the workshop.

Firstly, when did you first experience a class of this nature and what was it like for you?

I first experienced this unique way of working through Creative Connections, a project run by Jill Collier, involving a variety of groups including Peabody students and OrchKids.  I was a senior at Peabody at the time, and until that year my focus had been on a traditional orchestral track. During the project, I had the opportunity to use some very different aspects of my musicianship – playing by ear, improvising/composing bass lines on the spot – and was constantly overwhelmed, but in a good way! At the end, I sensed that this was a very special way of collaborating and left knowing that I too had the ability to create. Those realizations have guided everything that I have done since – it was a life-changing project for me.

Now that you are in the position to guide the class, what are your thought processes when leading these groups?

In guiding this type of experience, I know that my mindset needs to include a few things: belief that everyone has the ability to create, and trust that something will happen. This hopefully then translates into a creative environment for the participants. Developing a sense of trust among all those involved is key, as sharing ideas can be quite vulnerable. It is important that everyone feel their ideas to be valuable, and as a leader, you can help guide this by showing confidence in your own unique musicianship and ideas. I think every leader is unique in what their thought processes are, this is just what I have come to understand from my experiences so far. I’ve learned so much from working with more experienced leaders.

There will definitely be moments of chaos (there was a moment on this project where I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sound that was happening in the small room!), but approaching the chaos with an open mind and playful attitude is quite fun.

What is the typical layout of the class and how do you guide students into improvisation and composition that might never have had any prior experience with it?

A very general outline for a session could be:

  1. Warm-up
  2. Material generating – often broken up into small groups
  3. Presentation of material
  4. Arrangement of material
  5. Performance

Every project is different, so this outline can vary based on factors like: who the participants are (age, musical training, instruments, etc), how much time you have, what the performance will be like, and whatever other curve balls may be thrown your way. Having a plan is great. Be ready to improvise and change the plan.

Creating an idea, rhythm, or snippet of melody that you and the participants start playing around with can be a good way to draw those who are uncomfortable into the creative process. Start brainstorming words, or have each participant pick a note to add to a rhythm, or sing a melody and have someone finish it…there are so many possibilities! After developing an atmosphere of trust in the warm-up, chances are the ideas will just start coming from everywhere.

Another thought I would add is that if you are working with a team of people leading the project, spend time to develop trust among yourselves. Make dinner together, jam together, really do anything together – it will make a big difference!


Meet the Interns: Osita Atikpoh

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Meet the Interns: Osita Atikpoh

Osi is one of OrchKids Teaching interns and he’s halfway through his second week of the OrchKids summer program.

Let me start off by thanking you for being available to participate in this interview. Could you just tell us a little history of yourself, where you are from, where you currently go to school, what you’d like to do when you’re finished with school?

My name is Osi, I am from Baltimore. I have been going to the Peabody Preparatory for 7 years and I will be going to the Peabody Conservatory in the Fall. I plan to work here at OrchKids someday and I would also like to become a full time performer on Tuba.

When you arrive at orchids, what is your daily schedule like?
I get here at 7 and practice for 2 hours, but when the students arrive at 9, we all start off with Brass ensemble till 10:30. Then after that, I help with the Jazz Band then the students go to lunch. After Lunch, I help with Orchestra. It is a pretty full schedule, but I love it. 
What is your favourite part of the day?
My favourite thing is the individual lessons I give to the tuba players. I have 2 tuba students, but I also give lessons to the low brass section, and any students that ask for lessons – two or five.
How do you handle situations where students might not behave properly?
I think a good tactic is to separate a child from the group and for them to sit and think about what they’ve done. I remember when I was a kid, even myself getting in trouble. I think the worst part about being in trouble is when you see the other kids doing well, and having a good time while you’re sitting in a corner and your in trouble. When you look at other kids doing well, you know, you learn.
On the other side of the coin, how do you reward good behavior? 
The interesting thing with the students that I give tuba lessons to is that they are eager to learn the harder and more challenging music, so I tell them if they behave and have their basic scales down, that I will teach them harder music, like orchestral excerpts and solos and stuff like that. I love that their reward is learning even more.

What do you hope to gain from your experiences here at OrchKids?
I’ve noticed so far that as I teach students and help them out, I am actually learning a lot, a lot more than I had ever even expected. I think that just having this experience at such a young age, hopefully by the time I finish college and continue to intern here at OrchKids, I could really get the hang of things and would really enjoy the opportunity to be a full time worker.


Guest Artist Spotlight: Dontae Winslow

One of the most exciting things of being in OrchKids is the opportunity to work with guest artists from all over the world. This week, OrchKids welcomed a very special guest: Dontae Winslow, a trumpet player and Baltimore native who now works with celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Kendrick Lamar. Winslow has also worked with and recorded for many popular artists, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Beyonce, and has performed on television with the BET awards. Dontae is the cofounder of the jazz, soul, funk, blues, hip-hop amalgamation, Winslow Dynasty. While still performing live, Dontae also enjoys teaching and sharing his craft with younger audiences.

Dontae arrived at our OrchKids site just in time to work with the jazz band! Our jazz band is currently working on Blue Train, a jazz standard by the Cool Jazz artist John Coltrane. Winslow first played the original 1957 recording for the band, before working with the rhythm section, which is comprised of drumset, bass, and keyboard, and leads the foundation for the tune. Winslow then worked with each of the other sections in the jazz band, trading fours, where each player improvises a four bar phrase before passing it on to the next player in a musical conversation. The jazz band put together the tune, led by Winslow, where several students got the opportunity to solo and receive coaching.

Winslow ended the workshop with an inspirational speech, where he talked about overcoming his own hardships and reaching success. Winslow stayed after the workshop to personally talk with several OrchKids, take photographs, and sign autographs. We hope to host Winslow again in the upcoming school year when he comes back to Baltimore!

Dontae grew up on North Avenue in West Baltimore and went to Baltimore School of the Arts and the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. He has studied with and crafted his skill under famous Jazz performers like Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, and Wayne Shorter. He has also been featured as a guest trumpet soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. As a music producer/songwriter/arranger, Dontae has released 8 hip-hop and Jazz albums on his own independent label, Ransom Entertainment.

Winslow works with OrchKids Jazz Band rhythm section

Winslow works with OrchKids Jazz Band rhythm section

Guest Artist Spotlight: Dontae Winslow