It’s not every day that we have a notable composer write a piece specifically for our students. That became a reality for our Serenata String Ensemble when composer, Stephanie Ann Boyd, wrote a string orchestra arrangement for the class.
Ms. Boyd is a Manhattan-based composer whose symphonic and chamber ensemble pieces have been performed in nearly all 50 states and commissioned by musicians in 37 countries. She has been commissioned and performed by concertmasters of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony, the New York City Ballet, and many more prestigious musical ensembles.
Ms. Boyd and Nicolle Maniaci, Bosque School’s director of string orchestra, became fast friends after connecting for a project in 2016. “Being able to be friends with someone who is an accomplished composer and bring that into the classroom, it’s incredible,” said Ms. Maniaci. “I am so blessed to have had this connection with Stephanie.”
Ms. Maniaci pitched the idea of Ms. Boyd writing a piece for her class and was met with a resounding “yes.” The result was a piece titled Bright Dawn Chorus, which Ms. Boyd describes as an ode to late spring mornings and a celebration of the end of the school year—telling a story that starts in the dark of midnight and goes through a rainbow of colors until all the birds start singing.
When students were first introduced to the composition—walking through it visually while listening to a recording—Ms. Maniaci could hear “wows” from her class. Not only was the piece challenging for students, but it was a learning experience for Ms. Maniaci as a conductor. “I actually had to study the score a lot more than anything I've ever had to conduct as a school director.”
After weeks of practicing, Serenata students welcomed Ms. Boyd into their classroom where they were able to practice with her in person before performing for our community at their spring concert—the final strings concert of the school year.
“They got me tearing up at the climax of the piece,” said Ms. Boyd. “It was a gorgeous experience to be able to listen to the kids playing and remember the moment when I made that musical decision.” Being a part of the process in the classroom was a gratifying experience for both the students and Ms. Boyd.
It was extra fulfilling for me to see them enjoying being challenged and finding success in those musical moments that I had designed for them.
With a passion for creating educational string pieces, Stephanie said the decision to partner with Ms. Maniaci was easy. “I’m really happy that Nicolle gave me the opportunity to write a piece that had been in my heart for a while.”