Wolfle fifth-graders’ symphony to be performed at Benaroya Hall

The composers smiled as they reflected on the process of helping to create the winning composition to be performed by the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall in March.

KINGSTON — The young composers smiled as they reflected on the process of helping to create the winning composition to be performed by the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall in March.

“It was a chasing theme,” composer Alex Moff explained. “We wanted to find a way to speed up and slow down the music.” His partner, Leo Larios, agreed.

“It’s just mind blowing,” Larios said. “Out of all those songs, ours was picked.”

Larios said the experience helped him and his partners to brainstorm a plan for a new company. They might create a studio composing instrumental symphonies, calling it Adrenaline Studios.

But they have to graduate from elementary school first.

The 67 students of Wolfle Elementary’s fifth-grade class won the Seattle Symphony’s Link Up composition contest in January. Their collaborative composition, entitled “David Wolfle Symphony,” was chosen based on musical interest, instrumentation choice and melodic ideas.

Their symphony, along with a video interview of the students explaining their inspiration and composition process, will be premiered at Link Up concerts in March for an audience of more than 10,000.

“We were really looking for a composition with a fun, short melody that could highlight different voices of the orchestra,” said Kristin Schneider, Link Up education and community engagement manager. “We love Wolfle Symphony’s use of fanfare, with upbeat, bright motifs and creative instrumentation. We also felt the collaborative process which the students participated in to write the piece, aligned perfectly with our vision for the composition contest.”

The 1 minute 15 second symphony, with a slow opening and upbeat transitions, was created with “Finale NotePad,” a music writing and notation software on school laptops, enabled three fifth-grade music classes to collaborate. The school submitted their contest entry in mid-December.

Wolfle music instructor Michael McCurdy said though it was their first time entering the contest, the use of technology allowed the school a fighting chance in a short timeline.

“At first it was how many notes they could jam on the page. It was chaos. But then we went back and listened to them, asking why does that sound good or bad to our ears.

“We talked about different contrasts in music. We learned to write dynamically using quiet and loud parts that contrasted. The main idea was music theory. As composers, we wanted to have [an] idea in our head before we started throwing notes on paper … It had to be something that meant something to them.”

The themes in the “David Wolfle Symphony” are diverse and eclectic. Inspirations in the piece vary from themes around video games, the feeling of “something scary,” the elevated excitement from recess, and even whales.

Sarah Johnson, the composer for the symphony intro, said she found her inspiration from whale song.

“I love their song,” she said. “It’s slow, and low, and beautiful. I’ve heard a whale song on TV, but I wanted to recreate that.”

The classes worked individually or in pairs on contributions for the symphony; from there, the group voted on pieces that stood out most to them.

“We had to justify why we liked a certain piece or not,” McCurdy said. “From there, we arranged the top five or six pieces together, and that was our final piece. [The students] took the ball and ran with it. I find when you let kids have that freedom, they do amazing things.”

The Wolfle Elementary fifth-grade class will hear their symphony played at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on March 9.

“Our piece will be sandwiched right in between Beethoven and Vivaldi,” McCurdy said. “We’ll be listening to pretty intense, popular classics, and our piece will be played right alongside them. I don’t think they really know what to expect … This could be the catalyst for them to be the next composer.”

And perhaps it will, as Sarah Johnson, a fourth-grader in the fourth- and fifth-grade split class, said she’s already working on her next composition: birds.

“It’s just the opposite of the whales,” she said. “It’s both high and quick.” But overall, the experience reminded her she can do anything.

“I think everyone should be happy we won out of so many choices. We did it,“ she said. “We can produce something beautiful from anything creative, even popcorn.”

While the three composers joined together to improv in the pop-popping noise that popcorn might sound like, Moff rapped the sound of the kernels busting out.

As the students returned to class, they proudly left their autographs, while Leo and Alex brainstormed future plans for their business venture.

— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. Contact her at sbonomi@soundpublishing.com.

Wolfle fifth-graders’ symphony to be performed at Benaroya Hall
Wolfle fifth-graders’ symphony to be performed at Benaroya Hall