(Bastrop) After participating in a musical composer’s workshop over the past several months lead by world-renown trumpeter and composer Hannibal Lokumbe, two students for BISD have been randomly chosen to attend the debut of his musical score Healing Tones performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall on Broad Street in Philadelphia this month. Haley Stembridge of Bastrop High School and Gwendolyn Ibarra of Cedar Creek High School are the lucky student musicians headed to the performance.
Hannibal, who resides in Bastrop and born in Smithville, was chosen for residency through Music Alive, a national three-year composer orchestra program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. For more than four decades he has been celebrating and commemorating the African-American experience through music.
Composer’s Umbrella, Hannibal’s most recent endeavor, is designed to give musicians, composers, and artists an opportunity to develop creative ideas in a community environment that celebrates exploration and experimentation.
Part of that community exploration included approximately 30 BISD students who workshopped with Hannibal at the Bastrop Lost Pines Arts Center on three different occasions culminating in a smaller group of students visiting Hannibal’s personal Smithville studio where he shared the space in which he writes and explained more about Healing Tones and some of his past compositions including two musical bookends in his life thus far: African Portraits, performed more than 200 times by orchestras across America and One Land One River One People.
“The students received an insider’s perspective on how much time and work goes into writing a piece for a full orchestra and chorus,” Kenneth Gilbreath, Bastrop High School Band Director, said. “ They also got to see how inspirational source material such as literature, personal experiences and film can inspire a new piece of music.”
During the student experience, students were encouraged to perform occasionally, and at one session, they interacted with local master musicians including pianist Red Young, drummer Brannen Temple, bassist Michael Stevens, and vocalist James Robinson.
Healing Tones is Hannibal’s tribute to his great grandmother, a Cherokee Shaman who was a member of The Trail of Tears.
In the article “Composer-in-Residence Hannibal Lokumbe,” Hannibal commented that music belongs everywhere and to everyone, rich and poor alike and that has resonated with the students who worked with Hannibal.
“Music is life; it’s the passion of the people,” BHS student Rogelio Rodriguez said. “I know I can’t give up on a challenging musical score; keep practicing until I get it right.”
Perhaps Hannibal mentioned to the students as he commented in “Composer-in-Residence Hannibal Lokumbe” that working with Maestro Donald Dumpson, his choral master for decades, and the orchestra is a gift he will never fully grasp.
“There is no greater feeling than placing your newborn into the hands of those who will care for it as though it is their own, which in fact it is,” Hannibal states in “Composer-in-Residence Hannibal Lokumbe.”
Band Director Gilbreath would agree.
“Seeing my students working with Hannibal has been definitely a top lifetime inspirational and spiritual experience,” he said. “I feel very lucky to be here in Bastrop where our students and directors have the opportunity to work with a composer whose works are being performed by one of the top ensembles in the world.”