Jumping Mouse: A Cultural Meeting Place

Practicing for Jumping Mouse.

It begins with a soft flute, reminiscent of traditional Native American music. Then, from nowhere, thunderous percussion, powerful brass, and piercing strings begin to fill the room. Like the majority of this experience, something you did not expect begins to happen: the woodwind players begin to howl like wolves, while string players bang on their instruments. Alternating between sweeping full orchestra hits and tiny pizzicato motions, the piece ends suddenly, with a single tambourine.

To the outside viewer, this is Jumping Mouse in the Warm Summer Air, a massive scale multimedia piece involving vocalists, dancers, actors, and of course the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) symphonic orchestra. But to those playing the piece, it is just another rehearsal.

Co-composer/conductor/arranger Mr. Lieberson has been working extensively on this piece for a performance at the March 31st instrumental concert in the Tony Bennett Concert Hall. Jumping Mouse is a collaboration between Mr. Lieberson and Native American jazz composer and flautist Dennis Yerry, who needed help placing his ideas into an orchestral setting.

“I said I can help you with the orchestration, but I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” says Mr. Lieberson. “It took me about a year and a half and well over a thousand hours of my own time to compose a tone poem based on [Yerry’s] melodies…but I’m very happy that I have done this. It has really galvanized the orchestra, I have never seen this degree of focus in the 11 years that I’ve had the orchestra.”

People in other studios are also getting excited for this multimedia piece. There will be drama students as narrators, dance students dancing on stage, vocal students singing, and even projections by art students.

“It will be like a mini winter concert, because it has all of the majors involved,” says Demmi Delgado, senior art major and stage manager for the show. “I think working on it is going to be fun, and it’s going to bring a lot of people in. It’s going to be pretty big because there’s a whole set that goes along with it, along with projections,” Demmi added.

Mr. Lieberson also likes the multi-studio challenge of this piece.

“The most challenging part, and the most fun part for me, is working with people in different art forms” says Mr. Lieberson. “I love working with words and the dancers and choreographers and the lighting designers and the theatre director. I’ve gotten to do some theatre directing myself, which I’ve never done before, and I love it.” However the show progresses, it is safe to say that it will be one of the largest events that the school has put forth, outside of musical theatre.

You can catch the performance of this piece, along with the Wind Ensemble and the Advanced String Orchestra, on March 31st in the Tony Bennett Concert Hall.

– by Cooper Myers ’17