I was recently asked to take part in a small but important music program called My Song, which is part of the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet. Ken Ludden, the Artist Director and Founder of the Academy, approached me to work with the students and their original music composition program. In doing so, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Peekskill, New York, along with my producer, Tommy Faragher, and work with 8 amazing students on their songs. Each student was expressing issues in their songs, which are timely in their own lives, like entering 6th grade and a new school, protecting the environment, home/work issues, relationships with family. One student decided, instead of writing a song, to write a piano piece to accompany a D.H. Lawrence poem, “Piano”, which I will recite instead of sing. Each of the eight songs was a tiny window into their souls and lives and reminded me that nothing had changed since I myself was a pre teen. It also reminded me just how articulate young students can be. As a side note, the poem “Piano” was incredibly and unexpectedly moving for me to read, as the experience described in the poem was what I had myself seen/felt in relation to music in my own life. The author could have been describing my own mother, sitting at her Baby Grand piano with me underneath. Google it and read it if you can..you’ll be surprised how fresh it is to read and experience excellent poetry as an adult you were exposed to as a child. I read it about 4 times in a row because it really wanted to absorb it.
The My Song music program will make professional recordings of the students songs, using a Grammy nominated and 12-time platinum selling producer, Tommy Faragher, and I will be singing the vocals on each of the songs. The goal is to create an album that can also be sold to raise funds for the school and continue to teach the students about the business side of their tiny creations.
I have been amazed at how good some of the songs are. Many times I’m just start humming a tune as the hook is so strong. That’s a very good sign!
Just who is Dame Margot Fonteyn? For the uninitiated, she was a prima Ballerina from England, who danced with Rudolf Nureyev and was recognized by the Queen of England herself, with the highest honor she can bestow. The National Archives has followed closely her life as she is considered a national treasure.
The performance of the My Song program for the Academy will take place on Sunday June 13th. The entire press release is below, if you’d like to learn more. In addition, the Academy is always looking for new sponsors for their events and programs, so if you are looking for a new charity to support, I hope you will consider this one! You can contact the Academy through the website link at http://www.fonteynacademy.org/
May 17, 2010
Jennie Walker to appear as Guest Artist at Margot Fonteyn Academy Presentation
Vocalist Jennie Walker will be this year’s featured guest artist for the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet’s upcoming presentation of their student works. The event, called the GRAND DÉFILÉ (pronounced “Day-Fee-Lay”), marks the end of year scoring of each student’s work. Along with the presentation of both original choreography and assigned dances the students must perform, each student also composes an original song in a course called “My Song.” These songs are then performed and recorded by professional musicians, and each year a compilation recording is released.
Jennie Walker has worked with the students to develop her performance of the songs, and will be accompanied by her producer/arranger Tommy Faragher (Grammy nominated and 12-time platinum selling producer). Her debut album, “It’s My Time,” will be released in the UK on July 26, 2010, and will be distributed in stores by Universal Music and also available digitally worldwide. More information can be found on her website at: http://www.jenniewalker.com.
Of her work with the students, Walker says, “Working with the students at the Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet and their very personal original songs was like looking into a tiny kaleidoscope to see the colors in each of their lives.”
On the evening of the GRAND DÉFILÉ students are reviewed and graded by a panel of ballet world notables, and the resulting grade constitutes a full third of their grade for the year. This year’s panel includes ballerinas Joy Williams-Brown and Tai Jimenez, retired ballet dancer Brian Corman, actor Pe’er Klein, and MTV dance star Glenda Moralez from the popular dance crew, Fanny Pak (America’s Best Dance Crew). Members of Fanny Pak have an ongoing association with the Academy.
The GRAND DÉFILÉ, scheduled for Sunday, June 13, in the performance space at the Peekskill High School auditorium, will take place from 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. After the presentation of each student’s dance and compositional works, Ms. Walker will perform a 30-minute concert of songs from her upcoming new album. At the end of this time the student with the highest scores for the event will be given the Colin Milnes Award for “Best Student of the Academy.”
When not in the studio, Jennie is active in the music industry and in non-profit and charity fundraising endeavors, in addition to her workload as an actor and voice-over artist. She is a member of the prestigious Artists Against Hunger & Poverty Program of WHYHunger, and has made a personal pledge to ensure all of her music performances and music business activities have a charitable component, which allows her to give back to the community.
Her advocacy efforts have seen her commit her seemingly unlimited energy as a staff member of organizations like The Carter Center in Atlanta, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, The Synergos Institute, founded by David Rockefeller’s daughter Peggy Dulany, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Maintaining her commitment to be an advocate for important societal issues, Jennie will be donating a percentage of the proceeds of her album to WHYHunger, The Carter Center, Columbus State University, and The Synergos Institute.
The Margot Fonteyn Academy of Ballet was planned in collaboration with current director Ken Ludden over the last twelve years of the famed ballerina’s life. Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE, was an English ballerina of the 20th Century, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time. She spent her entire career as a dancer with the Royal Ballet, eventually being appointed Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the company by HM Queen Elizabeth. She remains in most accounts to be the greatest ballerina of all time and the most famous worldwide. She established the standard of artistry that has not been rivaled since her time on stage, and provides a legacy for all future generations. Her work with Ludden, and their long association, is the subject of an upcoming publication by Ludden. The Academy itself sets a new standard of education for classical ballet training, in which students study classical ballet technique and history, along with in-depth study of music, drama and painting—the art forms directly related to the ballet. Come to the GRAND DÉFILÉ to enjoy the work of the students who are a product of this educational program.
For more information please contact Academy artistic director Ken Ludden at 914-788-8885.