In the fall of 2006, when Kevin Clark first walked into St. Ignatius Loyola Academy to teach one middle school student how to compose music, he had no idea what to expect. An undergraduate studying composition, Mr. Clark had never taught in a classroom and certainly never designed a music education program. By May 2007, he had done both.
A decade later, Junior Bach has now welcomed more than 100 middle school students from both St. Ignatius Loyola Academy and the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. These students work with Peabody Conservatory composition students, who earn academic credit for the course. But it’s not the grade on their transcript that draws Conservatory students to Junior Bach, says Clark. It’s the ability to bring Peabody and to bring music into the Baltimore community.
“I wanted to have a community service program that did more than bring Peabody students to paint a wall one Saturday morning in the spring,” says Mr. Clark (BM ’07, MM ’08, Composition; JHU BA ’07, Philosophy). “I knew we had more to offer, and I wanted to find a way for our students to serve their community that could fit into their lives at Peabody, and maybe even give them valuable experience for their future careers.”
In celebration of the Junior Bach 10th anniversary, Mr. Clark was joined by program director Judah Adashi (MM ’02, DMA ’11, Composition), Junior Bach mentor Scott Miller (MM ’15, Composition, Music Theory Pedagogy), and Junior Bach students Luis Quintero (St. Ignatius Loyola Academy) and Genesis Henson (Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women) for a panel discussion, “Empowerment Through Music: 10 Years of Junior Bach,” on April 29.
Following the discussion, Tariq Al-Sabir (BM ’15, Voice), one of the very first Junior Bach students, premiered a powerful new composition commissioned for the occasion.
Mr. Al-Sabir, now a freelance composer and vocalist in New York City, was described as a precocious 13-year-old with a talent for music when he first joined the Junior Bach program. Ten years later, he has an impressive musical resume, includ- ing serving as a lead vocalist on the season four theme song for HBO’s The Wire and as a background vocalist on Billy Ocean’s latest album.
“Junior Bach proved to me, like all of its participants, that my idea is almost never out of reach and has more than enough potential to be actualized,” says Mr. Al-Sabir. “As someone with pretty big ideas coming in every day, it’s crucial that I remember that.”
Dr. Adashi says working with students like Mr. Al-Sabir is one of the highlights of his job. The Junior Bach program is a partnership, he says — a two-way street with powerful significance not only for the middle school students, but also for the Peabody Conservatory students and staff.
“The only thing I love more [than meeting the Junior Bach students at Peabody each week] is handing them their completed scores, signed by their teachers and performers, after their original music has been premiered in front of all of their class- mates,” says Dr. Adashi. “It’s hard to imagine anything more empowering, for the students, or for their mentors.”
— Carin Morrell