SEATTLE — The Seattle Symphony is celebrating Earth Day 2023 in a way that’s never been done before, with the help of teenage composers and a climate change composition, a project that’s been more than three years in the making.
The project started in 2019, when composer Angelique Poteat was tasked with selecting 30 King County teenagers to write and compose a 15-minute score for choir and orchestra about whatever topic they choose, then perform it during a Beethoven concert. The teenage singers would perform alongside the professional Seattle Symphony musicians.
“It was kind of like American Idol. We had a panel of us and they all came over and sang some music they prepared and we gave a little feedback,” said Poteat.
The group worked every week for five months to create their piece, workshopping different topics. Ultimately, the high school students decided they wanted their theme to be about climate change.
“This is a message that’s coming from our youth, our next generation and it’s a venue for them to really convey these concerns,” said Poteat.
The score “Dear Humanity” was finished in March 2020 with a goal of performing in June 2020. But with the pandemic’s delays, the performance was canceled.
Now in 2023, not only is the piece finally making its debut, but the Seattle Symphony decided to create an environmental show surrounding the score for Earth Day weekend.
On the eve of Earth Day, the piece was performed for the first time ever. Many of the teens who originally wrote the piece three years ago are no longer in the area, so the University of Washington singers stepped in to help.
A handful of original teenage composers who were young at the start of the project were able to see it all the way through, though. Maddie Rivera was a freshman at Lincoln High School when the project began and is now a graduating senior, so she was able to perform with the group.
“Especially the opportunity for the Seattle Symphony to perform a piece that you helped create, this is probably one of the coolest things I’m ever going to end up doing,” said Rivera.
Friday’s concert featured multiple environmentally-themed songs, plus a panel discussion with a handful of the teenagers who helped write Dear Humanity.
Poteat said they also had information regarding ways to help the environment locally, with a goal of inspiring people during the concert, then giving people a way to sign up to take action afterward.
“One of the wonderful things about music is it has the ability to really connect with us on an emotional level so we hear this and we have all of this sound that’s tugging at the heartstrings and this message that’s coming across so it’s this amplified emotional response that will hopefully really inspire people to get out of their seats and say yeah why can’t we do this,” said Poteat.
If you missed the concert, it will be available to stream for two weeks here.