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Nine Student Composers Emerge from SRHS

SRHS Student Composer Caleb Jimenez, grade 11, watches the Catalyst String Quartet from New York City play his musical piece called, "The Death."

On August 31, the Salt River High School lecture hall was filled with beautiful music composed by nine selected music students.

Through the Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP) and world-renowned composer Raven Chacon (Navajo), the talented students each wrote a short musical piece for string quartet, which was professionally performed by the Catalyst String Quartet from New York City.

The students had only three days to create their musical compositions, writing parts for a viola, a cello and two violins. Each piece ranged from one to three minutes and was introduced by the student composer, who provided background on the piece and how it should be performed.

NACAP is an intensive music immersion program dedicated to training and developing musical literacy, critical thinking and decision-making through music composition.

“It’s a very intense project, and fortunately the students at SRPMIC have a little bit of a foundation in music to actually do this project,” Chacon said. “I’ve taught this program in schools that have no music/arts programs. To be able to come here is refreshing, to be able to work with students who have those skills thanks to Mr. [Chris] Wakely, Ms. Bowing and Mr. Gerhalva. This allows us to get into more advanced concepts of composition and art that are needed for these young students to be exposed to.”

In 2002, NACAP was introduced at Salt River High School. The program became inactive in succeeding years but made its appearance again in 2013 and has only grown since. NACAP allows students to challenge themselves as Native American musicians and compose their own musical pieces.

“It’s such a great program. It’s always very nice for us to come here and to experience the unique voices that come out of here, because you never get to hear enough. It’s a very special program and it’s amazing; I hope it keeps going for a long time,” said Paul Laraia (viola) of the Catalyst String Quartet.

“It’s been a joy to watch it morph into what you just saw today. From a bunch of noise, to now, where it has structure, it has harmony, it has melodic line and the kids are able to explain what they were trying to achieve in it. It was amazing to me. It really gets me,” said SRHS music teacher Chris Wakely, who will be retiring after the 2017-18 school year.

The compositions also were performed at Scottsdale Community College on August 31 and at the Grand Canyon Music Festival over Labor Day Weekend.

“Mr. Wakely came to a program that we did at Scottsdale Community College and brought his whole class over. It takes a teacher like that to see the vision and see the value of it and make it happen,” said Grand Canyon Music Festival Artistic Director Clare Hoffman. “He got us involved with this Community. Having him come to us and say, ‘Can we be involved,’ really opened the door.

“I’ve seen a growth in the students,” Hoffman added. “They do it one year, they’re very hesitant and tentative. Then they see what can happen, and the next year they want to do more. It’s been amazing.”

SRHS Student Composers

Evelyn Burke, grade 8
Ariana Chiago, grade 12
Oni Claw, grade 7
Alyssa Francisco, grade 8
Caleb Jimenez, grade 11
Sialik King, grade 10
Rayleen Martinez, grade 10
Erica Nasafotie, grade 10
Aaron Sabori, grade 10