National and international performers, composers, and conductors speak with directors and students.
The CCSD Artist-in-Residence program created by Harrison Cook, Director of Orchestras at Sprayberry High School has provided students and teachers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
The Cobb Artist in Residence program began as an idea to keep students engaged and excited in the our new remote environment. Initially it was to entail inviting a few individuals to join remotely to play their instrument, talk to students about their profession, and give them an idea of the amount of work and skill involved as a musician. The guests also encourage the students to work hard despite varying circumstances. Over the summer I prepared a document describing the ideas and thoughts and sent it out to some friends, calling the program the Sprayberry Artist in Residence Program.
Sprayberry HS Director of Orchestras Harrison Cook tells the story:
“After reaching out to several college friends and current performing colleagues to see who might be interested in helping, the amount support we got was overwhelming. Through their connections I was put in touch with Broadway actors, symphony members, opera singers, video game composers, musical directors and more, and it grew far bigger than was initially planned. Once I realized how many people were willing to help out, I decided to reach out to some world-renowned artists and was surprised when award-winning composers Eric Whitacre and Brian Balmages eagerly agreed to be a part of the program. We were also lucky enough to get an actor (Desmond Sean Ellington) and musical director (Roberto Sinha) from the hit musical Hamilton to join the cause. Once they were on board, I knew this couldn’t remain a Sprayberry-only event, so I started reaching out to other directors in the district to see who would be interested in participating.
By the time the first Q&A occurred we had six high schools and several-hundred students attending each Zoom session with students joining from band, chorus, and orchestra. The students were encouraged to come up with meaningful questions for each artist. In order to best help them, we sent out introductory videos at the beginning of each week, highlighting performances and background of each artists, and the kids amazed us with the quality of their questions. Many of the artists specifically stated how well-prepared and professional the students were throughout the session.
At this point in the year we have had 10 Artists in Residence, and there are more signed up and interested. I plan on continuing the program into the future, so long as there are people willing to be a part of it. I am honored to have been able to talk to so many brilliant artists, and am forever thankful that they were willing to give us their time and insights into their professions!”
Below is a list of artists who have already participated, as well as those still to come:
Pieter Schlosser (Composer) 8/28
Maria Valdes (Opera, soprano) 10/4
Eric Whitacre (Conductor) 10/11
Roderick Cox (Conductor, orchestra) 9/18
Chris Martin (Principal trumpet, New York Philharmonic) 9/25 – Sprayberry High School alumnus
Michael Stiggers (Broadway) 10/2
Brian Balmages (Composer) 10/9
Desmond Sean Ellington (Hamilton, Washington, Madison) 10/16
ATTACCA (String quartet) 10/23
Robert Sinha (Hamilton, Musical Director) 11/20
Sou-Chun Su (ASO, violin)
Rolando Salazar (Conductor, opera)
Alexander Peet (Actor/singer)
Bill Lee (Luthier, business owner, William Harris Lee)
Helen Kim (Violin, KSU)
Gloria Jones (Bass, ASO)
Rainer Eudeikis (Cello, ASO)
All images – Harrison Cook
Chris Ferrell, Supervisor
Performing Arts – Instrumental Music
Contributing Authors: Harrison Cook, Director of Orchestras, Sprayberry High School