On April 30 at 7:00 PM, the sounds and stories of the New York City subway will fill Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York City, with SUBWAY MOON, a live music and video performance that combines professional jazz musicians, filmmakers and high-school students performing original songs by the students. The professional jazz ensemble combines Roy Nathanson's Jazz Passengers and Sotto Voce, with Roy Nathanson (saxophone), Bill Ware (vibraphone), Tim Kiah (bass, vocals), Sam Bardfeld (violin), Napoleon Maddox (human beatbox), and Curtis Fowlkes (trombone, vocals) as members of the band. The participating students attend New York City schools: The Institute for Collaborative Education and City-As-School in Manhattan, and High School for Violin and Dance and Holcombe L Rucker School of Community Research in the Bronx. Seating is general admission and free. There is a suggested donation of $15 to cover the cost of the venue and any additional proceeds will be donated to the music programs at the schools. People who want to attend can also call 212.864.5400 to be added the reservation list.
SUBWAY MOON finds the beauty and creativity in public transportation and the trains, buses, and ferries that take us throughout urban areas. Over the past several months, NYC students have been writing poetry, composing music, reciting lyrics, and rehearsing the songs for the Peter Norton Symphony Space concert. For these students, being a part of this project has given them a space to write original material and perform it in a prominent venue alongside their peers and with professional musicians. The students involved in the project - especially those interested in careers in the arts - benefit from having a space to build creative and expressive skills as well as by working with professional musicians, poets, and filmmakers.
Franklin Sim, Principal of High School for Violin and Dance said, “Whenever I visit the work sessions, students are actively and eagerly engaged in writing and performing their poems. When my colleagues and I walk into the Subway Moon ‘studio’, we never cease to be in awe of the interactions among students as they excitedly encourage each other. Students are engaging in peer to peer discussions and they are providing relevant feedback to each other in a relaxed manner while using their own experiences and their individual ways of expressing themselves via both writing and spoken word.”
SUBWAY MOON was created in Brooklyn in 2007 by musician and New York City high-school teacher Roy Nathanson. Nathanson rode the subway into Manhattan to teach; he wrote poems and stories on the commute. He found that he could write in a focused and private way there despite the subway’s public interior. Nathanson scored these subway poems for his bands, The Jazz Passengers and Sotto Voce, and filmmaker Andrew Gurian created video interpretations to the music. The poems were published by Buddy’s Knife jazzedition and performed at MassMOCA and Joe’s Pub in 2007, and in 2009, the Subway Moon CD was released.
In 2008, Nathanson brought Subway Moon into music classrooms, working with his students at the Institute for Collaborative Education, as well as assisting students and teachers in Paris, France, to write original songs about their experiences on public transportation. The first collaborative concert featuring student groups alongside The Jazz Passengers and was performed at Paris’ Banlieues Bleues Festival and at The Cooper Union (NYC) in 2008. To date, Subway Moon has been presented in fifteen unique venues, including in England, Munich, Hamburg, Detroit, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island.
Of the England performance, Philip Johnson wrote in The Independent, “Subway Moon, must have been a life-changing experience for its participants... It was the most inspiring performance I've seen in years.” In his review of the Munich performance, Dirk Wagner writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung, “The result was not the one that we usually applaud at conventional school concerts, but a summit meeting rightly celebrating three separate bands....Together with the impressive videos projected onto a large screen they delivered a total work of art.”
The SUBWAY MOON project focuses on building community and connection through art. Zuri Gordon, Subway Moon teacher and alumna said, “All of the students involved in the upcoming collaboration attend NYC high schools, but they likely would not have met and interacted in an artistic way without the Subway Moon collaboration. Being a part of Subway Moon forces them to look at their subway experiences in a new way and encourages them to find artistic inspiration in the ride. Everything from a late train upending one’s schedule to catching the eye of another passenger becomes a story, then a poem, then a song.”
SUBWAY MOON’s fiscal sponsor is Jazz Passengers Music Projects, Inc., a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization. The April 30 Peter Norton Symphony Space performance is made possible with funds from the Augustine Foundation.