Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming came to Chicago on March 19 in their mission to promote arts education. The two classical music stars made a surprise performance by collaborating with a choir of students from Lake View, Merit and the Chicago High School for the Arts at the James R. Thompson Center with Gov. Pat Quinn in attendance.
The two stars performed a piece by Rachmaninoff and then led the high schoolers to sing "America the Beautiful" along with Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians. The Monday gig was a collaboration of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Citizen Musician initiative and the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Renee Fleming Initiative.
"Citizen Musician, we believe in that mission," the governor enthused. "A hundred thousand people go through (this building) every day, so it's a great place to move the movement." The Lyric's general director, Anthony Freud, also gushed, "Collaborations with other cultural organizations around the city hasn't been something that has happened often with Lyric, and I'm really excited about this."
Before performing at the Thompson Center, Ma and Fleming visited Lake View High School. "I've never done anything like this before," she said. In one classroom, she recalled the time when she forgot the national anthem lyrics. In another class, she advised students on how "to make a sound that really projects."
Talking about the mission, Fleming said, "It's very much about making sure kids are able to express themselves in all of the arts and have access to and exposure to the visual arts and theater and music and dance and try all of it because that's how they figure out who they are."
Ma additionally stated, "An integrated arts curriculum is to me, it means that we have people who are in touch with who they are on the inside and in touch with what they can receive from the outside." He added, "That to me will create the best possible work force."