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Wayzata’s Take on Eastern Classical Music

Orchestra+teacher+Mark+Gitch+leads+a+Skype+rehearsal+with+Indian+composer+Chitravina+Ravikiran.+The+piece+was+written+by+Ravakiran+for+the+occasion.
Orchestra teacher Mark Gitch leads a Skype rehearsal with Indian composer Chitravina Ravikiran. The piece was written by Ravakiran for the occasion.

Orchestra teacher Mark Gitch leads a Skype rehearsal with Indian composer Chitravina Ravikiran. The piece was written by Ravakiran for the occasion.

Orchestra teacher Mark Gitch leads a Skype rehearsal with Indian composer Chitravina Ravikiran. The piece was written by Ravakiran for the occasion.

Caroline Hansen, Senior Staff Writer

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Orchestra students work in rehearsal for the melharmony concert March 21. The concert was very well received. Photos by Caroline Hansen

On March 21, the Wayzata High School chamber orchestra and string orchestra came together to perform with Indian musician and composer Chitravina Ravikiran.
  Their journey began several months before when students began work on three of Ravikiran’s compositions. With these pieces came a rare opportunity; young musicians in both orchestras had the privilege of working with Ravikiran himself while exploring eastern culture through music.
  Earlier this year, orchestra students began exploring the concept of melharmony, or pieces for western string orchestras based on the concepts of Eastern music.
  According to orchestra instructor Mark Gitch, melharmony is the practice of composing pieces that combine the harmonies that often accompany simple melodies in Western music with the complex melodies of Eastern music.
  It was this exploration of melharmony that inspired Nandini Sridhar, a vocal student of Ravikiran’s and a member of the chamber orchestra, to introduce the idea of incorporating Ravikiran’s compositions into their studies of Eastern music.
  “It was very different from anything we’ve done before,” said Sridhar. “I was amazed by the amount of support we got.”
Gitch soon began reaching out to members of The Melharmony Foundation, as well as the Wayzata Booster Club, in hopes of making the performance possible.
  According to Gitch, the biggest problem they faced was the large amount of funding necessary for this concert. After failing to raise the money through grants, Gitch and his students were forced to think outside of the box. Gitch says it was this creative thinking that inspired the legendary Krispy Kreme Donut fundraiser.
  “Krispy Kreme paid for this amazing culture experience, low-brow to high-brow I suppose,” said Gitch.
  Once they had the funding, Gitch and his orchestras began work on several of Ravikiran’s melharmony pieces. Before the concert, both orchestras had an opportunity to rehearse with Ravikiran over Skype, a new experience for many orchestra students.
  “It was great doing the Skype time with him and hearing his feedback. He seemed very pleased with the work we were doing,” said Gitch.
  All their hard work paid off when the orchestras finally got to perform their pieces alongside Ravikiran. Many of the young musicians who participated said they were able to appreciate Ravikiran’s music and the unique experience it provided them.
  “He’s a visionary in a way; he poses the question ‘why can’t high school students connect to this music?’ It’s because there isn’t any music there for them to play, that’s the biggest barrier. The problem is a lack of material, so he creates the material for them to use,” said Gitch.
  According to Gitch, students and audience members were incredibly happy with how it all turned out, saying the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
  “It was a mixed reaction, as you’d expect for anything new,” said Gitch. “Some were very appreciative of what we were doing, for representing their culture in an authentic way. We also heard ‘this is so cool because it’s so different’ or ‘this is so cool because I never knew the history behind the culture.’ Overall it was positive, strongly positive.”

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