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San Diego Symphony Composing Music Inspired By Crowdsourcing

Bill Conti is the principal pops conductor for the San Diego Symphony. He is composing the orchestral music inspired by San Diego.
Bill Conti is the principal pops conductor for the San Diego Symphony. He is composing the orchestral music inspired by San Diego.
San Diego Symphony Composing Music Inspired By Crowdsourcing
GUESTS:Bill Conti, is Principal Pops Conductor for the San Diego Symphony Leonor Xochitl Perez, PhD, is artistic projects manager for the San Diego Symphony

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Cities usually have their own songs, think New York New York or I left my heart in San Francisco. Or I love LA, even small cities have attributes. San Diego has no sound cards out and that is a situation the San Diego city Symphony is looking to change. After sifting through hundreds of videos through San Diego ends, the your salt your your salt your story program is going to appear in the Willard winning film score producer is joining us to talk about is your welcome to the show and thank you for being here. See to it which we were talking about a song that would become instantly famous by leaving my heart someplace on this place is a little granted that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I will get to that but I want to also introduce our guest Leonor Perez thank you for being here. Back to your point, this project is a lot more than composing a single song, it's really an orchestral work is that? BILL CONTI: It really has to be defined because the project is involving videos of people and their songs and dances and reminiscences and historical stuff that they have put YouTube and I am visualizing everything that you have ever done. We could have everything that you did today on a visual production and we've asked the public to present some of this material and other words local San Diego's stuff that is emotionally important to them and socks a story and dances and I will architecturally create original music by own and incorporate their artistic contributions into a twenty-four minute he's that the San Diego Symphony will perform together with videos and live performances of these people. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is in either ambitions project and how did you solicit all of these stories and photos and dances, how did you get them and make sure they came from everywhere in San Diego? LEONOR XOCHITL PEREZ: We had a variety of strategies but first I would like to tell you how we got into this project, the Irvine foundation was generous to give us about $180,000 grant in October 2012 to collect these videos and our objective was to reach out to San Diego's diverse communities and really come to the Symphony and engage the community as much as possible, and right now the profile of our audience differs from the group that we're trying to reach two and we had specific stiff code so we wanted to reach out to and that is will we told him provide an interestingly not only do we get those that golf of reaching the ZIP Codes but we went way beyond that and are glad to report that we have met our goal and exceeded that and in January of this year I went out by starting at the multicultural Festival bullet three Martin Luther King weekend and talk to people about whether they would like to contribute to this project. From that time to August 30 I went to a total of twenty different cultural festivals and also had various media and advertising campaigns going and probably the most fun of those is the blue line trolley wrapped where we wrapped a entire trolley with a mother your song our story. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: See what let's your song submitted to the your song your story project. [[AUDIO FILE PLAYING]] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Know some people will listen to a song like that fate is nice and pretty, but what does it have to do with San Diego? What are you looking for? BILL CONTI: Where does it stick in the context of everything? That is the point. You have to have an everything feel at the beginning and then you begin listening and saying does this fit in with this part of this become part of a whole, if you have a rough idea of what the whole could be and and the whole must have novelty and must be invented and it must be interesting, there are a lot of things that the whole piece must have come and let's say that we cannot have twenty songs like that, why? The point is to make twenty minutes interesting as possible and tell not tell a story but these stories and can't be literal because of the world of music and art the literal and not a big deal and it is more about whether or not it's going to move you and that say that particular song has a place, do they all have a place? 24 minutes but if you consider that we had over 300 submissions, but the hard part is weeding out in the harder part dealing with the part seeing is doing with the part where people ask why there's is there and you have to know that when you make point dresses like this you will make someone happy and someone else will say mine is just as good. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But we play another one so people get idea of the range of music that we're talking about, let's hear another song it is a Mariachi Garibaldi. [[AUDIO FILE PLAYING]] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Bill will it be your in rotation at this submissions that we would hear the concert or will it be the actual communities work? BILL CONTI: Will definitely here, this combination will be the Symphony and there will be the videos of these people telling their story and dancing and singing, and we've invited some of the most people to do it live also with us, so we have not finalized how many and who there will be, but the intention is to have live performance along with the Symphony and the video screens and it will be very exciting. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much direction did you give people when they submitted songs and stories, what did you ask for? LEONOR XOCHITL PEREZ: We went up there and say what we would like to hear what your song stories and dances are and it's up to you disc to find that and that is what we went out and did and it was very interesting that it was not too hard to get anticipation and our objective is to make a strong foundation for ongoing community participation and engagement and if we do not incorporate some of those now he will do this to become more inclusive of time passes. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This of like very daunting project and it's something you're creating a mosaic from a number of different pieces and try to make something out of a lot of separate parts, are you finding a challenging? BILL CONTI: I will object to the word daunting. I only want to embrace it. I will make up my mind later but in the beginning when it wasn't specifically defined, I find that a lot easier to come up with the deficit. Definition. If in a film by director said you he had no idea but the music, what she do what you feel, that is what approach but if the director says I really want to hear this kind of music, then then there is a focus directed to his focus. This was to be inclusive and I would have to a right original music to tie together to come up with something that would be interesting and exhilarating, and my plan is just that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you planning to compose original music, will there be a unifying usable theme throughout the piece that maybe could be thought of as a San Diego melody? BILL CONTI: The unifying theme will be too broad to be something like Chicago or any of those great one-off songs, but the idea of writing a song for San Diego existed would be an art song, that is something that is more sophisticated and their art songs written as a popular song in this case, it did not come from people in any intention was not to write a hit song, this will be including so many people and their messages. And I cannot send it intentionally they had their personal story in mind when they did this and the collective San Diego story will have to be different. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Know where you surprised by the number of this countries that you got? LEONOR XOCHITL PEREZ: I was worried but surprised and we had a short time to collect all of these and with the got started it was clear that so many of us in everyday life express ourselves through song and story and dance whether it's a story about what happened yesterday or a song that your humming on the way to work on your car, we are all the rage to the arts everyday and so I did not find it too hard to get the stories, I just had to get out there is much as possible in a short period of time to collect the spirit. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Power you planning to how are you presenting this work and what will we get to see it? LEONOR XOCHITL PEREZ: We are committed to having at least three or four presentations in each for Symphony Hall at least one of each 5000 people and three outdoor block party type presentations and areas for San Diego Symphony does not, go, maybe North County or East County or self day, we are currently working on spotting those venues. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, is this going to be a centerpiece for Balboa Park Centennial celebration? LEONOR XOCHITL PEREZ: The grant is over October 2014, and the Centennial celebration is 2015 and we are but we are exploring the celebration the one bill, would you like to see come out of this piece? BILL CONTI: Whatever's going to happen I want to happen it's a performance piece but I want the consent concepts to be continued to be more inclusive, and the reason for the twenty-four minutes is not, let's say it's not specifically where someone had to settle on a figure than some of going to should it for a presentation, for a 24-bit piece, if it was done on a regular basis could have and would need sponsorship, it could help more people being included in the twenty-four minutes because the illuminated somebody people and not because of anything except for the time and I have to say it ends up being if you're going to do the piece you might select other pieces. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to stop you there, we're out of time. Thank you very much.

San Diego Symphony Composing Music Inspired By Crowdsourcing
The San Diego Symphony asked everyday San Diegans to send in videos of their music to help inspire an original orchestral composition about San Diego.

One man is tasked with composing an original piece of orchestral music about San Diego: Bill Conti. If you don’t know his name, you probably recognize his music. Think grey sweats and a famous run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts.

Bill Conti composed the theme music to the movie "Rocky." He’s also the principal pops conductor at the San Diego Symphony, the entity commissioning the San Diego-inspired music.

Composing music that captures the spirit of an underdog fighter is one thing. Capturing the pulse and identity of an entire city is something else entirely. Conti is getting some help. Symphony leadership asked every-day San Diegans to share their music and stories to help him. The project is called "Your Song, Your Story" and it's funded through a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.


In a conference room at Symphony headquarters, a committee of musicians and ethnomusicologists are sifting through more than 300 videos submitted by San Diegans. There are videos of people, singing, performing and telling their stories. And there’s a range. The Martin Luther King Choir submitted a video. So did a 10–year-old girl who plays "Camptown Races" on her keyboard. A beat boxer wanted to be considered, so his video is there too.

The committee selected 24 videos to give to Bill Conti for inspiration, narrowing it down by focusing on original works. The song "Better Days" by Joshua Sharpe was one of the 24.

Better Dayss

Jonathan Fohrman is an ethnomusicologist at Mira Costa College in Oceanside. He’s on the committee. Fohrman likes the idea of collecting what he calls “the music of the people.”

"When I first heard of it, it made me think of the public works types projects that America was doing in the 1930s with Woody Guthrie," he explained. "When they were writing songs that represented the American experience."

The diversity of San Diego is represented in the submissions, from the Pacific Islander community, to the Chaldean, to two hip-hop artists trying to start a new San Diego dance craze called the "San Diego Dip."

Tha Twinz - San Diego Dip

Jeff Nevin is a professor of music at Southwestern College. He also helped select the videos going to Conti. He says some of the stories were just as powerful as the music.

"One little boy talked about how he came home from school one day and his dad had been deported. One girl talked about how she coped with being bullied," Nevin said.

A woman told the story of her son who was shot and killed in Los Angeles. She wrote a lullaby for him and performs it in a video.

Fohrman says a lot of people shared stories about overcoming addiction and domestic violence.

Leonore Xochitl Perez is the San Diego Symphony's artistic projects manager. She's coordinating “Your Song, Your Story." She says they see this as a way to grow the audience base.

"The Symphony is very aware of the fact, trying to reach out to audiences it doesn’t normally get at Symphony Hall."

Conti is working on the piece now. The final composition will be performed at Symphony Hall next summer and at a series of block parties, all free to the public. There will be performances by some of the groups who submitted videos to the project. Other videos will be worked into a multi-media component.

All of the videos can be viewed online. Including this performance of a Bruno Mars cover featuring Lance, a 9-year-old Filipino boy from Lemon Grove. He’s only been playing piano for a few months. He recorded three versions before he felt like his performance was good enough. So I’m going to let him sing us out.

Lance Performs Bruno Mars