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Cripple Creek is an American bluegrass song whose origins have been debated for centuries. Some believe it was from the late 1800’s gold rush in Cripple Creek, Colorado, Others believe that it dates back to the 1700’s and is about the Cripple Creek, which goes through a farming community in Virginia. There have been several sets of lyrics associated with it, too.

Conquest was composed by Jerry Woolstenhulme, one of the composers/arrangers of our method book. He continues to teach middle school orchestra in the Phoeniz, Arizona area. His description of Conquest begins as the morning fog rolls off the hills near a seaside village. As the fog quickly gives way to the grassy hillside, nearby villagers see rows of conquerors primed and ready for attack. As the music dramatically builds, the horned-helmet Viking men race toward the village, ready to conquer and win! However, as dictated by the pizzicato theme, the villagers try to sneak away and escape the wrath of the mighty Vikings. In his version, the Vikings ultimately reign, but in MY interpretation, the villagers rise up, demonstrating their resilience, and they reclaim their destiny.

Jupiter is part of a Suite called The Planets by English composer Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916. It includes seven movements. He skipped Earth, and Pluto (now defunct!) hadn’t been discovered yet. This is one of my personal favorite works. In fact, a few years ago, I had to leave an NHS string club performance early (I wasn’t conducting) because my daughter, Julia, had surprised me with tickets to see the DSO perform it. If you ever hear the Jupiter ringtone on my phone -- Julia is calling me! Holst also believed in learning by doing, and that all students can compose. So glad to hear that, since our next unit will be exploring composition! Our arrangement is by Deborah Baker Monday, who plays bass, is an active ASTA (American String Teacher Association) clinician and teaches 4th - 8th grade string classes in several schools.

African Adventure is by American composer Robert Sheldon, who wanted to write a piece that would take young musicians and the audience on a trip to a mysterious continent with this tuneful and rhythmic offering. The tribal Swahili beat and authentic-sounding harmonies provide a colorful and vibrant moment. I chose this one because I wanted to offer our advanced musicians an extra opportunity to play more challenging music. I am also dedicated to a world view in music education, and will continue to purposefully program music from different places, different cultures, and diverse composers.

Don’t Stop Believin’ was originally written and performed by the pop-rock group Journey on their album called Escape. There is a lot of symbolism behind this choice. We have been through tremendous challenges this year. I have been emphasizing all year how proud I am of every accomplishment of every student in this program. “You can do it! I believe in you!” has been something I’ve said over and over throughout the year. We end each class with students typing in their “Positive Thought of the Day.” I am always thrilled when I see the word “believe” in a quote! This program is something I have “believed” in since 2006. I wanted this for these kids before they were even born. I am blessed and honored to have been given this opportunity. As a native Detroiter, I like that my beloved city is in the lyrics to the song. I like the ambiguity of the lyrics, and that there are many different interpretations. I’d love to hear yours!  Don’t Stop Believin’ Lyrics and Interpretations