MEQUON - Countless hours of prep work and practice have been happening for months behind the scenes at Homestead High School.
And while all that hard work and dedication has certainly prepared them for their concert Thursday, May 18, a special Skype conversation on May 11 sealed the deal.
Academy Award-nominated composer Marco Beltrami, of “5:10 to Yuma” and “The Hurt Locker” fame, Skyped with about 100 students to discuss his experiences as a major Hollywood composer and specifically his work on the 2016 film “Gods of Egypt.”
“I was happily surprised to receive an email a few weeks ago from (John Emanuelson) mentioning that his school orchestra would be performing a couple pieces from the slightly obscure movie
‘Gods of Egypt,’” Beltrami said. “I am excited to hear that the music lives on outside of the movie and was pleased to meet via Skype some of the members of the orchestra.”
Beltrami said he was impressed with the questions the students asked and how prepared they were for their conversation.
“In these days of budget cuts and de-emphasis of non-academic programs, (Emanuelson) should be very proud of the evidently big role music takes (at Homestead) and know that you are our future,” Beltrami said.
There was an electric energy in the room as Beltrami spoke briefly with the students and then answered their questions for the better part of an hour.
“It was a very enlightening experience, especially since Beltrami has composed the music for many of my favorite movies,” said sophomore viola player Kaylee Norris. “His answers to our questions were elaborate and precise. I’m grateful to have met Mr. Beltrami.”
“It was really cool to hear first-hand from a composer how the whole process is done, and about his thoughts about music in general,” added junior Becky Daubert, who plays the violin. “It meant a lot that he took time out of his day to talk to us, and that he even took an interest in us in the first place.”
The opportunity was a special one for Emanuelson, director of orchestras at Homestead.
“It is very unusual for orchestra musicians to engage directly with composers, because very typically, they are no longer living,” Emanuelson said. “Further, high school musicians do not generally capture the attention of living composers, so we are very excited and eager to have this opportunity to ‘meet’ Mr. Beltrami and discuss his work, creative process, and accomplishments in the week before our first-ever live performance of this music.”
The time with Beltrami offered students a unique glimpse into the creative side of composing, something Emanuelson said was absolutely fascinating to learn more about.
“It was really interesting to learn about real-life things like creative blocks and dealing with pressure and deadlines,” Emanuelson said. “We all really got a glimpse behind the curtain on how you decide what it’s going to sound like and all the things you never think about when you are playing a finished composition.”
Through a special arrangement with JoAnne Kane Music, the Homestead Orchestra will offer the world-premiere concert performance of some of the music Beltrami created for “Gods of Egypt.”
“Gods of Egypt was scored for a large symphony orchestra, augmented by numerous world percussion and wind instruments,” Emanuelson explained. “As a part of our study of this music, we have also sought the performance insights of world musicians to learn about performance techniques and traditions.”
Students had an opportunity earlier this month to work with retired Milwaukee Symphony percussionist Linda Raymond Siegel, who offered a clinic for the percussionists on djembe, taikos and bodhran.
The concert is at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at the James Barr Performing Arts Center at Homestead, 5000 W. Mequon Road.
There are 147 string students enrolled in orchestra at Homestead, with another 30 musicians from the band joining in the full Symphony Orchestra repertoire.
“It was really interesting not just to meet Mr. Beltrami, but also to gain insight into some of his work behind the music of ‘Gods of Egypt,’ as well as his work in television and other projects,” said junior Vidya Jayanthi, who plays the violin. “It honestly made a difference to meet someone famous in the field of music. It was a great way of gaining information about the opportunities beyond high school, especially in a field like professional composition.”
The musicians will also be joined by about 40 choir students, as well, as the score is scored for orchestra, choir and various non-traditional orchestral instruments.