Thanks to funding from the South Carolina Arts Commission (SCAC), Decoda – a NYC-based chamber music ensemble – will create and perform original songs with teens from Denmark-Olar High School (DOHS) this week.
“This is an incredible opportunity for one of South Carolina’s rural high schools to work directly with nationally and internationally acclaimed artists in a process that awakens students to their own creative abilities,” said Ken May, executive director of the SCAC. The week-long event is an arts education project that is part of the agency’s Art of Community: Rural SC initiative.
Claire Bryant, by Caroline Bittencourt
One of the visiting artists, Claire Bryant, grew up in rural South Carolina and now lives in New York City. She has been working closely with SCAC for several years to organize this event. She calls experiences like this “transformative.” Bryant is a cellist and is director of Decoda’s social justice initiative, “Music for Transformation.”
During the week at Denmark-Olar, she and three other visiting Decoda artists will facilitate a collaborative songwriting workshop for 20 student participants. Together, they will write new songs based on the theme, “Where I’m From.” Other students will be involved in organizing and documenting the experience.
The workshop week will culminate with a celebratory performance at the school Friday, March 30th at 2:15 p.m. It is open to the public.
Decoda’s transformative songwriting programs have garnered national attention for the both the artistic and social impact of its recent projects in partnership with NYPD officers and teens from Police Athletic League in NYC. In addition, it has been highlighted nationally for its program with incarcerated residents at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. Also in South Carolina, Decoda has a long association with the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County in Camden where it has performed and also been “in residence” at schools there.
“The integration of arts within our schools plays a vital role in the development and success of our youth. The arts, especially music, nurtures and empowers the humanity inside all of us,” Bryant said. “We are especially grateful to the Denmark community for its hospitality and kindness. A special thanks to Denmark-Olar High Arts Coordinator Dr. Anna Martin, who has arranged all the details for our school visit, as well Principal Mickey Pringle and Dr. Thelma Sojourner, superintendent of Bamberg District 2 schools. The list is long,” she said.
SCAC also recognizes Mary Rivers and Denmark Technical College Choral Director Dr. Yvette McDaniel and assistant director (and Denmark-Olar alumna) Ashley Jordan for their assistance in making this partnership possible. (Ed. note: McDaniel and Jordan are involved with the Art of Community: Rural SC initiative.)
Decoda is a New York City-based modular chamber ensemble dedicated to creating meaningful musical experiences through dynamic performances, education, and a quest for social impact. Decoda provides engaging performances, interactive concerts, and enlightened discussions serving the widest possible types of audiences. Now in its fifth season, Decoda’s projects and performances have taken place in South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, and across the U.S.
“Music for Transformation,” Decoda’s social justice initiative, brings creative songwriting projects to help empower vulnerable and disenfranchised voices. Decoda’s exemplary work in maximum-security prisons and in the juvenile justice system has been recognized by CNN, Huffington Post, the Associated Press, Washington Post, and Billboard Magazine. Decoda has on three separate occasions been invited to the White House to perform and advocate for arts programming as a means for criminal justice reform. For more information, please visit decodamusic.org.