What do visual art, orchestra, and engineering have to do with each other? Quite a lot if you are a third grade orchestra student at Lovett! Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s guitar sculptures, the 29 students enrolled in third grade orchestra designed and built their own instrument sculptures. They then took it a few steps further, composing, performing, and recording their own short pieces inspired by their art, and then wiring and soldering the recording and playback device inside the sculptures for the listening pleasure of the viewer.
Orchestra teacher Adrian Davis, Lower School art teacher Katherine Schneider, and Lower School Design and Engineering Coordinator Trevett Allen led the students through this six-week journey to uncover the intersection of art, music, and engineering, and to help students understand both their music and their art in entirely new ways. In art class, students studied Picasso’s art and methods and then, by building their own instruments from cardboard, learned the basics of mixed media sculpture composition as they also mastered the names, shapes, and functions of the parts of their instruments. In orchestra, they analyzed the ballet “Parade,” the first collaboration between French composer Erik Satie and Picasso, exploring the synergy of the music, art, and movement. Armed with a deeper understanding of how music can amplify visual art, students used their emerging understanding of tempo, rhythm, and dynamics to compose short pieces that “told the story” of their art. Finally, they visited the inGen, the Lower School makerspace, to record their compositions and install small electronic devices in their sculptures--learning some basic wiring and soldering techniques along the way.
Third graders enrolled in general music rather than orchestra also studied Picasso, creating Picasso-inspired collages that round out the exhibit on the second floor of the Lower School. Viewers can stand back in awe of the art or lean in to hear the music sounding from the cardboard sculptures.
Along the way, Lovett’s youngest string players mastered the parts of the instrument, learned some electronics basics, and improved their oil pastel and sculpture-building skills. Even more importantly, they developed agency as musicians and artists, recognizing that they can create music, not just perform others’ works. And they learned to linger in the process, recognizing that engineering, art, and music all rely on processes of imagining, creating, testing, and improving. Learn more about Lovett’s Vision for Learning, STEAM integration, and arts programs at www.lovett.org.