Playground Ensemble Teaches Denver Students A Unique Musical Language

<p>(Photo: YouTube)</p>

Denver’s Playground Ensemble, a group that champions modern classical and contemporary composers, is spending this week teaching students an unusual way to create music.

It’s called Soundpainting. A composer guides musicians with a series of hand gestures to create an improvised piece of music in concert. Here’s a video of a Playground Ensemble Soundpainting performance from 2014:

Three Playground Ensemble teachers are working with second-through-fifth-graders from El Sistema Colorado, which offers free instrumental and choral music instruction to about 700 students in Denver schools. Megan Moran of El Sistema Colorado called the classes “a launching-pad in musical composition”:

“I wanted to give my students an opportunity to create their own material and be creative in a new way. I hope that students eventually feel empowered and utilize the skills they learn to think outside of the box and recognize their own artistic ability."

Walter Thompson, who created Soundpainting in 1974 and has presented Soundpainting concerts around the world, helps teach this week’s classes in Denver. Here’s footage of Thompson in action:

The students will show off what they’ve learned in their own Soundpainting concert hosted by Friends of Chamber Music. It happens Thursday at Garden Place Academy, 4425 Lincoln St. in Denver.

Check out CPR's recent feature on Playground Ensemble's debut of a unique string quartet by composer Loretta Notareschi.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said the Playground Ensemble also holds monthly Soundpainting meetups. The group says it no longer host those gatherings.