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"Building" a Ballet with Robert Maggio

November 15, 2011

robert maggio

Robert Maggio discusses how to compose music with Jackson School students.

This week, composer Robert Maggio is part of an unusual project that Philadelphia school children helped to create. The work - a new ballet - will be premiered Wednesday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Wilma Theater on Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts.

Earlier this year, Maggio received a Community Partners Grant from the American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter, for a project with BalletX and the Andrew Jackson School in Philadelphia. "Inside the Mind of the Composer and Choreographer" connects him with BalletX's Matthew Neenan, and the Jackson School's K-8 students as composer and choreographer develop a new ballet.

Maggio and Neenan, along with BalletX co-artistic director Christine Cox, taught the students about composition and choreography. The activities allowed the children to participate in the entire creative process - brainstorming before the piece is written, learning in hands-on workshops, having fun with improvisation sessions, joining rehearsals on stage with dancers and musicians.

The students, many of whom have little to no exposure to professional ballet, are bringing the "building blocks" to this construction, says Maggio. The professionals fill in the mortar.

The collaboration resulted in a piece he calls "Jackson Sounds" for BalletX company dancers and two cellos, with music scored for and performed live by cellists Thomas Kraines and Jie Jin. The performance also includes two other numbers from other composers.

For more on Maggio's collaboration with BalletX, check out the story from

For information on the performances, contact the Wilma Theater box office at 215-546-7824 or click here.

Maggio, who has been at WCU since 1991, also received a 2011 fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and is a past recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. His most recent CD, String Quartets, was released this past March; it features variations on American and Italian folk songs performed by the world-class Corigliano and Borromeo String Quartets. Maggio is chair of WCU’s music theory and composition department.