“ ...I start jumping with all my might and Juli-Bird begins to go toward the sky. We jump so high that we become two birds with strong wings. As we fly in the sky, we spot one of our favorite places, the Waterpark.Excerpt from "My Adventure Partner" by Julian and Harrison
When we land at the Waterpark, Juli and I decide to splash in the waves. The two of us love going crazy in the water acting like sea creatures. So much so, the two of us turned into some slippery fish. ... ”
The Sing Me a Story Foundation exists to serve families with children in need, by facilitating imaginative story-making and bringing those words to life through inspiring musical experiences. Their process includes pairing children diagnosed with chronic health conditions with songwriters who turn their stories into songs.
When the organization reached out to Detroit Symphony Orchestra cellist and composer Jeremy Crosmer with the story of seven-year-old Julian and his brother Harrison—whom they met through the Penrickton Center for Blind Children—the seeds of a fruitful collaboration were instantly planted.
Julian is diagnosed with developmental delays and a cortical visual impairment, and music is his go-to joyful place—especially Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie En Rose.” His mother has seen the “biggest smile” fill his face when the horns play loudly. Julian loves kicking his feet to activate keyboards, piano mats, and other musical instruments.
With Harrison as his creative partner, the two wrote and illustrated an eventful story about their adventures as brothers.
When Jeremy read the story, he reached out to jazz trumpeter and composer Kris Johnson to conceptualize a work that aligned with the creativity and fun throughout Julian and Harrison’s story.
“Their story is so colorful,” said Jeremy. “[The boys] turn into a variety of animals, they go to various places; and so, having many different instruments—flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and the jazz quartet—there are many colors to work with. So much of this piece is just fun. Kids are going to love having the percussion and the jazz elements.”
The pace and color of the illustrated story inspired the use of text-painting, a compositional technique that reflects the literal meaning of a song’s story or lyric.
Kris shares that they made Julian and Harrison’s writing primary in the process: “One of the first things we did was go through the story and then I did the voice over reading of the whole thing. We then broke the voice over into little pieces; so, as we composed, we started dropping those pieces into our session to sonically show ‘this is what the story is saying’ for a particular section. Then, we built the music off that, so that [the story] is very integrated into the process. Everything is being used together as one, cohesive ensemble.”
The result is a classical jazz composition titled, “My Adventure Partner” that syncs Julian and Harrison’s imaginative storytelling with vivacious sound performed by four DSO musicians, a jazz quartet, and Detroit vocalist Audra Kabat who also narrates throughout the piece.
For Sing Me a Story, this was their first time venturing into a symphonic sound. Earlier projects featured singer/songwriters such as folk artist Cody Francis and R&B/Soul band Tank and the Bangas.
“We’re honored and thrilled to work with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in bringing the voices and imaginations of two remarkable brothers, Julian and Harrison, to the world through music,” says Austin Atteberry, Executive Director of the Sing Me a Story Foundation. “Thank you to the incredible staff and musicians and also Jeremy Crosmer and Kris Johnson for composing such an amazing piece inspired by the story from Julian and Harrison."
On May 22, the DSO welcomed Julian, Harrison, and their mother to Orchestra Hall for the reveal of “My Adventure Partner.”
ABOUT SING ME A STORY FOUNDATION:
The Sing Me a Story Foundation combines the imaginations of children in hospitals, children's homes, vulnerable youth organizations, and hospices with the talents of songwriters to create stories and songs that bring joy to all those involved. Those stories are then distributed to our SMAS Songwriters through our website, www.SingMeAStory.org, who view the stories, turn them into songs based on the ideas presented in the stories, record them, and send them back to the children by uploading them back to the site. SMAS Jukebox Campaigns are then created for each song uploaded to raise money for the Partnering Organizations and Sing Me a Story. When fans contribute to the SMAS Jukebox Campaigns, they receive the song as an Mp3 with their donation receipt.