INSIDE THE COMPOSER’S MIND

Join us for a journey Inside the Composer's Mind! This collection of videos for students in grades 3-6 explores elements of music through interactive activities and Minnesota Orchestra performances.

Some videos ask you to do an activity alongside the musician; some might require supplies. Preview the videos in advance to make sure your students have everything they need to get started. Don't forget to check out the rest of the supplemental materials—instrument demonstrations and activities from community partners—to deepen your experience and inspire students to express themselves through music and other art forms!

Performance Videos

  • Rhythm

    Rhythm

    Brian Mount, principal percussion, leads an activity to help your students understand rhythm before listening to a performance of Meccanico, from Trio per Uno by Nebojša Jovan Živković.

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  • Melody

    Melody

    Natsuki Kumagai, first violin, leads your students through an activity exploring melody, followed by a performance of Voodoo Dolls by Jessie Montgomery.

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  • Orchestration

    Orchestration

    Join Roma Duncan, flute and piccolo, as she discusses how a composer might think about which instruments they use. Have paper and coloring tools on hand for the interactive activity during the video!

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  • Form

    Form

    Join Rosemary and David Good Fellow Kai Rocke, bassoon, as he explains how composers think about the structure, or form, of their music before listening to Ulysses Kay’s Galop, from Six Dances for String Orchestra.

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  • Finale

    Finale

    Finish your journey inside the composer's mind by putting it all together and listening for rhythm, melody, orchestration, and form in the final movement of Haydn's Symphony No. 104.

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Activities

  • Composition Activity

    Learn about isorhythm with composer Adam Zahller, and then create your own music using this technique.

    Write Music
  • Movement Activity

    See how different instruments make you want to move with this activity from Toneworks Music Therapy Services.  

    Move to the Music
  • Art Activity

    Explore parallels between music and visual art compositions with a drawing activity from artist Jimmy Longoria.

    Make Art

MEET THE PERFORMERS

Minnesota Orchestra

The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 and led since its centennial by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, is recognized for distinguished performances around the world, award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts, educational engagement programs, and commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of the future. The Orchestra tours regularly throughout Minnesota and nationally, and has also toured abroad in Australia, Canada, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa. It performs a wide variety of music at nearly 175 concerts in a typical year, primarily at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. 

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Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Since becoming the Orchestra’s music director in 2003, Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has led the ensemble on several major international tours, including historic tours to Cuba and South Africa and six visits to Europe. His recording projects with the Orchestra have met with great success, including a disc of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony issued in summer 2020. In January 2020 Vänskä began a new tenure as music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also the honorary conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Vänskä, who began his music career as a clarinetist, has recorded Bernhard Henrik Crusell’s three Clarinet Quartets and Kalevi Aho’s Clarinet Quintet for the BIS label and is in the process of recording several duos for clarinet and violin which he has commissioned with his wife, violinist Erin Keefe.

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Sarah Hicks, conductor

Conductor Sarah Hicks, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, has led a broad range of programs since joining the Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006. Her notable projects with the Orchestra have included co-creating the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series with Orchestra violist Sam Bergman; conducting a live-in-concert recording with singer-rapper Dessa released in 2019 on the Doomtree Records label; leading numerous original Orchestra programs including Home for the Holidays, A Musical Feast and A Scandinavian Christmas; and conducting many of the Orchestra's Movies & Music concerts. Away from Orchestra Hall, she recently conducted performances of Disney Pixar’s Coco at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the orchestra in ABC’s live televised production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

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Brian Mount, host

Brian Mount, a Minnesota Orchestra member since 1997, was named the Orchestra’s principal percussionist in 1999. He previously served as principal percussionist of the Honolulu Symphony, and he has performed with many additional major orchestras, including the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Antonio, as well as the Los Angeles and New York philharmonics. He has been featured many times in the Minnesota Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert and FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Kinder Konzerts. He also plays guitar and sings with the M.O.B. (Minnesota Orchestra Band), a Minnesota Orchestra musician-based rock and roll cover band. He graduated from Indiana University, studied further at the Tanglewood Music Festival and earned a master’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

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Natsuki Kumagai, host

Natsuki Kumagai joined the Minnesota Orchestra’s second violin section in 2017 and won a position in the first violin section in 2019. Born and raised in Chicago, she has served in concertmaster positions at orchestras including the New World Symphony, New York String Orchestra Seminar and Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, where she was awarded the Jules C. Reiner Violin Prize. She is an active chamber musician, and has won prizes at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Saint Paul Chamber Music Competition and Society of American Musicians Competition. She was a member of the New Fromm Players, the quartet in residence for contemporary music at the Tanglewood Institute that performed world and U.S. premieres of works by composers Marc Neikrug and Joseph Phibbs.

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Roma Duncan, host

Roma Duncan, who joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003 and plays both flute and piccolo, has performed Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C major with the Orchestra at Sommerfest 2005 as well as at subscription concerts in 2007 and 2019. She has held numerous roles in recent Young People’s Concerts, hosting concerts in 2018, performing as a soloist in Henri Kling’s The Elephant and the Fly in 2017, and serving as narrator in George Kleinsinger’s Tubby the Tuba in 2011. In her most recent chamber music performance at an Orchestra concert, she played Miguel del Águila’s trio Herbsttag in April 2021. She has also been a featured soloist with the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, the Lakes Area Music Festival, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and the Windsor Symphony.

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Kai Rocke, host

Kai Rocke is currently one of the Minnesota Orchestra’s two Rosemary and David Good Fellows. Previously he performed as second bassoon with the New Bedford Symphony. He has also performed with orchestras such as the Atlantic Symphony, Haffner Sinfonietta, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Shreveport Symphony. He received his bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory as a student of Greg Henegar and completed his master’s degree at Rice University with Benjamin Kamins. He has attended festivals such as Spoleto USA, the Music Academy of the West and the National Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Music Institute. His other primary instructors have included Sue Heineman, Lewis Lipnick and David Brundage. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, reading books and playing chamber music.

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ABOUT THE MUSIC

  • Meccanico, mvmt. I from Trio per Uno, Opus 27

     

    Nebojša Jovan Živković

    • Born
      July 5, 1962 | Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia

     

    Nebojša Jovan Živković leads a dual career as a composer and a performer of marimba and percussion music. He has traveled the world to teach and perform, including here in Minnesota, and released six CDs of his original music for marimba and percussion. Živković’s prolific compositional output has made him one of the world’s most frequently performed composers of percussion music, with many of his works becoming standards in the modern percussion repertoire; his pedagogical works for younger players have also found great success.

    In the first movement of his Trio per Uno, Meccanico, three percussionists play dizzying interlocking patterns on bass drums—sometimes in unison and sometimes staggered—as well as three sets of bongo drums and six Chinese gongs. Živković’s score directs the percussionists to form an inward-facing triangle around a shared bass drum; however, this performance uses three separate bass drums to allow for safe physical distancing between players.

    Živković shares the following remarks on the first movement of Trio per Uno, excerpted from a longer program note about the full piece:

    “The [first and third] movements have some similarities in manner and appear as if they would present a perfection of wildness in an archaic ritual cult. The opening [movement] requires a bass drum (lying flat) played with timbale sticks by all three players. In addition to that sound, a pair of bongos and China gongs are used by each player. [The] possibility of improvisation...just makes the piece more interesting and, at the same time, opens the way for the free streaming of the drum-energy, without an obligation to the ‘written text.’”

    Instrumentation: 3 bass drums, 3 sets of bongo drums and 6 Chinese gongs

     

  • Voodoo Dolls

     

    Jessie Montgomery

    • Born
      1981 | New York City, New York

     

    A native of New York City, Jessie Montgomery has made a point throughout her career to take on projects that explore historically marginalized voices and encourage a wider awareness of what is happening in the world around us. “Music is my connection to the world,” she writes on her website. “It guides me to understand my place in relation to others and challenges me to make clear the things I do not understand.” Her music, in turn, takes us all on a journey.

    Voodoo Dolls, for string quintet, was commissioned in 2008 by the JUMP! Dance Company of Rhode Island. Voodoo is a collection of spiritual practices stemming from traditional religious beliefs in several West African nations, primarily Benin, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria, and further developed in parts of the African diaspora in North America. Montgomery’s Voodoo Dolls is, in her words, “influenced by west African drumming patterns and lyrical chant motives, all of which feature highlights of improvisation within the ensemble.”

    Those patterns are noticeable from the first notes, when players start knocking at their instruments. Soon after, they pick up their bows to articulate the driving rhythm in the same way, with the first violin indulging in some freewheeling improvisation. Eventually a lilting viola solo arrives, ultimately joined by the cello. More spirited knocking effects announce a section marked Wild! in the score. After a final burst of energy, the frenzy of the dance magically fades away.

    Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello and bass

     

  • Moderato quasi marcia, from Serenade in D minor for Wind Instruments, Opus 44

     

    Antonín Dvořák

    • Born
      September 8, 1841 | Nelahozeves, Bohemia (now Czechia)
    • Died
      May 1, 1904 | Prague, Czechia

     

    Born into a poor family in rural Bohemia, Antonín Dvořák had been apprenticed to a butcher, but was able to change paths when friends and relatives helped send the boy to music school. In 1878, the year he turned 37, Dvořák composed his first set of Slavonic Dances. Based on the colorful peasant dances of Eastern Europe, the Slavonic Dances explode with color and excitement, and they made Dvořák’s reputation almost overnight. They were quickly performed throughout Europe and even in distant America, and audiences around the world were swept away by their unusual rhythms and distinctive melodies. Earlier in that same year, between January 4 and January 18, 1878, Dvořák had composed his Serenade in D minor, and it too incorporates features of Czech music.

    The instrumental serenade is usually remembered as an 18th-century entertainment form. Usually light in character, these multi-movement works were often composed for social occasions—weddings, graduations, civic ceremonies—and were sometimes written specifically to be performed outside. They usually began with a spirited march, and along the way they might include minuets, variations, movements for a soloist with the orchestra, and so on. No one knows the occasion for which Dvořák wrote his Serenade in D minor. In this good-spirited music, Dvořák took the general form of the 18th-century wind serenade but made some important changes, reducing the number of movements to just four and scoring it for an unusual combination of instruments.

    Moderato quasi marcia. Dvořák salutes tradition by beginning with a sturdy march. After this mock-serious opening, he offers some nice variety with a second subject that rocks easily along its dotted rhythms; both themes return to lead the movement to a quiet close.

    Instrumentation: 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 horns, cello and bass

     

  • Galop, from Six Dances for String Orchestra

     

    Ulysses Kay

    • Born
      January 7, 1917 | Tucson, Arizona
    • Died
      May 20, 1995 | Englewood, New Jersey

     

    Ulysses Kay was among the first major African American classical composers to follow in the footsteps of trailblazers from the preceding generation such as William Grant Still and Florence Price. (Still, in fact, helped prod the young Kay in the mid-1930s to redirect his academic studies from liberal arts to music.) Like many Western classical composers who came of age in the 20th century, Kay had available to him a dizzying array of traditional and modern compositional styles and techniques. While studying with Paul Hindemith in the early 1940s, Kay found his primary voice in the Neoclassical style—the revival of 18th-century European musical practices such as light textures, simplicity of style, harmonies rooted in traditional Western tonality (though with expanded use of dissonance), and the favoring of traditional non-programmatic forms such as dance suites and sonatas.

    By the time of Kay’s passing in 1995, his output included five operas, the last of which was about Frederick Douglass, as well as more than 20 large orchestral works and numerous choral, chamber and film compositions. Also vital to his life story were service in the U.S. Navy as a musician during World War II, 15 years as an advisor and consultant for the performing right organization Broadcast Media, Inc., and two decades as a distinguished music professor at the City University of New York.

    In the Six Dances for String Orchestra, the use of the dance suite form, which was of great importance in the Baroque period (1600-1750), fit Kay’s Neoclassical style, though here infused with an energetic and distinctly American spirit. The Galop is a fast-paced movement in 2/4 in Rondo form, employing repeated sections in the manner of a Baroque suite, with an emphasis on clear melodic lines, while the tempo and time signature each stay constant.

    Instrumentation: string orchestra

     

  •  Finale: Spiritoso, from Symphony No. 104 in D major, London

     

    Franz Joseph Haydn

    • Born
      March 31, 1732 | Rohrau, Austria
    • Died
      May 31, 1809 | Vienna, Austria

     

    Franz Joseph Haydn was one of the most famous composers in Europe during his time. He is known as the "Father of the Symphony," and helped standardize musical forms like the string quartet. Haydn was born in Rohrau, a small town in Austria. At the age of 8 he went to Vienna to sing in the choir at St. Stephen's Cathedral and to attend the choir school. After leaving St. Stephen’s, Haydn struggled to earn a living as a composer until he was hired by the Esterházy family—a Hungarian noble family—as their Kapellmeister. It was Haydn's job to write music for the Esterházy princes, and to conduct their orchestra. Haydn composed symphonies, operas, string quartets, and all kinds of other music for performance at the Esterházy court.

    Around 1790, Haydn accepted a commission for six symphonies by Johann Peter Salomon of London. Haydn was treated like royalty upon his arrival in England. Later, Haydn composed another set of six for a second visit to England in 1794. These 12 symphonies are known as the “London Symphonies.” Symphony No. 104 is not only the last of this set, it is Hyadn’s final symphony. The last movement of this symphony uses Slavonic folk tunes which Haydn heard during his years on the Esterházy estates and is in Sonata form—with an exposition presenting two themes, a development section where these themes are manipulated, a recapitulation of the opening themes, and a final coda to close out the piece.

    Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings

     

  • Explore Additional Activities

    Looking for more ways to engage with music? Visit our blog for a science of sound activity created by the Bakken Museum, a make-your-own-instruments activity, and more family-friendly content.

    View Activities
  • Program Sponsors

    The Minnesota Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts and music education initiatives are generously supported by a lead gift from the Mary Ann Feldman Music Education Fund. Additional support by Vi Victoria Deiro.