Arts, Global Learning, Upper School

Announcing the Virtual Orchestra Project

The Northwest School's Upper School Orchestra will this year connect with students from eight different countries around the world in an exciting new collaboration, The Virtual Orchestra Project (VOP). The year-long project will result in a performance featuring a video presentation of all eight schools – including one in a refugee camp outside of Mosul, Iraq – playing a tango song by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla together.

Says orchestra teacher Jo Nardolillo: "We talk a lot at Northwest about global citizenship and social justice. I wanted to explore what that means to be a global citizen in terms of orchestra."

Throughout the year, the project will build connection between the students at each school. Every month, students will send each other "video postcards" and establish a virtual pen-pal. Each school will record its performance on an iPhone (or similar device) and Jo will overlay the tracks together. That composite track will then be edited into a grand video performance featuring all of the parties involved.

Jo deliberately is working to keep the playing field as level and equitable as possible in two ways. All schools will use only iPhones for the recording technology and will be working with folk music that is not from their respective countries.

"We needed a song that was not composed for a symphony orchestra," says Jo. "The school in Iraq does not have cellos, for example. The school in Columbia is a traditional ensemble, featuring guitars and drums. The school in Ethiopia is not an orchestra and plays traditional Ethiopian instruments. If music is really a universal language, can we adapt it to all the styles of the world and have it work?"

The VOP pairs Northwest students with students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Washington D.C., Colegio Jorge Washington, in Cartagena, Columbia, the John F. Kennedy School in Berlin, Germany, the International School Bangkok in Bangkok, Thailand, the Givatayim Conservatory in Tel Aviv, Israel, the Lelt Foundation Orchestra in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and women in a refugee camp outside of Mosul, Iraq.