Producer: Michael O’Reilly

LiveConnections operates out of the World Cafe Live building on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus where you’ll find Hal Real, founder of World Cafe Live and co-founder & president of LiveConnections. The “what” of LiveConnections is a little harder to describe, as they bring together disparate musical sources (Philadelphia Orchestra musicians and Indie Rock songwriters) for 70 minute “bridge sessions” that involve hundreds of middle and high school students from all over the Greater Philadelphia Area. It can be a transformative experience for the musicians involved, since when do orchestra players hang out with singer-songwriters? It can also be transformative for the students that attend and participate in the sessions. Many of these students are from the Philadelphia School District which has had it’s programs – like art and music – slashed into non-existence with the past few years of budget cuts. Not only does the “bridge session” offer a way to connect musician to musician, it serves as a way to expose students to art and music. And in the case of a “great” bridge session, like the one captured by Friday Arts cameras on the day we visited, students not only learn about music, but also learn about history and geography. A “great session” will teach in a way that is engaging, that doesn’t seem like teaching. Students find themselves wanting to know in which country a particular beat originated, and how it changed over time with the forced movement of enslaved peoples all throughout the Americas, because they are invested in the music. It is not just “talking” about all of these things, it is a matter of feeling connections through time and place and realizing that this coming together of music. movement and learning is really how all school should be. Thankfully, LiveConnections continues to make that a reality one bridge session at a time.

Opening the Door

Produced by Michael O’Reilly // Edited by Kelsey Styles
Though she believes in taking risks, the goal of Teaching Artist Lela Aisha Jones is to create a safe space where students will feel comfortable enough to really be themselves. Through encouragement and engagement, Jones is able to see how kids are interacting with their world.

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