COLUMBUS, Ohio — A central Ohio music director is looking to expand classical music into an activity that bridges cultures and demographics.
What You Need To Know
- Stephen Spottswood is the director of the Columbus Cultural Orchestra
- Spottswood, also known as Stephen Stringz, was born into a musical family
- The music teacher at Reynoldsburg City Schools, who also is a professional violinist, started the Columbus Cultural Orchestra six years ago, blending contemporary with modern music
- The Columbus Cultural Orchestra performs Friday, April 22 at Capital University’s Mees Hall
Stephen Spottswood is a music educator and the director of the Columbus Cultural Orchestra.
“We can not afford to ostracize students who have all of these different cultures mixed up in them,” said Spottswood. “We have to help them find their identities and be able to play this music all at once.”
Spottswood, also known as Stephen Stringz, was born into a musical family.
His father is a choir teacher in his home state of Maryland and his father exposed him to many styles of music at an early age.
“He taught me how to play gospel, jazz, and then I started to pick up classical later in life,” said Spottswood.
The music teacher at Reynoldsburg City Schools, who also is a professional violinist, started the Columbus Cultural Orchestra six years ago, blending contemporary with modern music.
“When I was in orchestras growing up, I was always felt there was more to my story because I loved hip-hop and I loved jazz,” said Spottswood. “And so I started to create my own arraignments of contemporary music and I look at Jay-Z the same way I look at Beethoven.”
Students said Spottswood has challenged them to break out of their comfort zone as a musician.
“You’ve got to move a bit with the music. Make sure that the audience who you’re playing towards feels the vibe that you’re playing,” said Aaron Evans, a viola musician. “It’s challenging at first, but after that it’s exciting. Feels freeing because you’re playing whatever you want to play.”
It challenges the students to expand their own views.
“It’s an eye-opener because it helps me like widen my musical genres,” said Donovan Callahan, a cello musician. “It helps people who actually want to play like different genres of music, but can’t get that in a traditional classroom.”
The orchestra comprises 16 central Ohio youth between the ages of 14 and 25.
Although Spotswood said African American youth continue to be underrepresented in orchestras across the country, he hopes his methods will continue to make a difference in the community.
“When a lightbulb goes off and I bring them a piece by Drake and they play it, they go ‘Ahh, I do see myself in this music. I do see possibly me playing in college or making symphonic music my career,’” Spottswood said. “And so, that’s really what I’m trying to do is raise the level of retention by starting in the schools and bringing these arrangements to students.”
The Columbus Cultural Orchestra performs Friday, April 22 at Capital University’s Mees Hall.