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Merit’s PMSA Band Collaborates with Chicago Freedom Ensemble

“It gives them the opportunity to dream bigger, to see that not only can they use their music to make themself famous, but they can actually use their music to impact our community.”

Thaddeus Tukes, Chicago Freedom Ensemble Founder & Artistic Director

PMSA Band Chicago Freedom Ensemble Concert

Collaboration is a powerful tool in music education. It develops higher-level thinking in students, boosts their confidence, and exposes them to new ways of creating art and music. In addition, musical collaboration helps bring people together and builds community.

So when Mr. Akshat Jain, Merit Tuba & Euphonium faculty and Assistant Band Director for the Merit Music in Communities program at Proviso Mathematics & Science Academy (PMSA), had the idea for a special collaborative concert between the PMSA Band and Chicago Freedom Ensemble, everyone immediately jumped on board.

Mr. Akshat Jain conducts Merit students and Chicago Freedom Ensemble in a collaborative performance of “Zacatecas”.

This concert wasn’t only an opportunity for students to play side by side with professional musicians, it also taught them about making a positive impact through music. Because Chicago Freedom Ensemble is more than just a music group—they’re a group of musicians “empowered by music to effect positive change in their communities by establishing connections between individuals and community organizations and actions”.

The founder of the ensemble, classically trained vibraharpist and bandleader Thaddeus Tukes, shared why collaborations like this one matter to him: “Students get to interact with other folks in the community—the musicians, the professionals. I think it’s just really invigorating to partner side by side with the students—to be able to play with them and hear how we articulate things differently and learn from us directly. It gives them the opportunity to dream bigger, to see that not only can they use their music to make themself famous, but they can actually use their music to impact our community.”

Mr. Steven Gooden leads the Proviso Mathematics & Science Academy (PMSA) band with Chicago Freedom Ensemble in this excerpt of “Among the Clouds”.

The performance took place at the PMSA auditorium in Forest Park on November 18, and was a huge success. In addition to the collaborative aspects, the concert featured some pretty cool songs from artists like Beyonce, Marvin Gaye, Janelle Monae, and more!

“I was incredibly happy to give the students their first opportunity to perform in two years. It was a special treat to bring in Chicago Freedom Ensemble to perform with them,” Mr. Jain reflected on the experience. “Being able to unite music and social justice together like this made me extremely proud.” Now, Mr. Jain, Thaddeus, and PMSA Band Director, Mr. Steven Gooden, are talking about taking the show on the road, allowing the students to gain experience with performing in their community and continue spreading the group’s important message. Keep your eye out for a repeat performance in the spring!

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