"I Really Liked The Way You Conduced"

Peter and the wolf, as most kids know, belong in the musical tale which has enchanted generations since Prokofiev composed the opus. The MAD Factory is a nonprofit group offering young people opportunities for cultural expression--including a chance to dance onstage. Shawn Charton '97, a vocal- performance major, was astonished to find himself suddenly conducting a 28-piece orchestra of his peers. Nancy Roth '58 is a professional dancer, who taught the childeren creative dance movementsfor their interpretive-dance roles.
They all came together when Sharon Anderson, MAD's director, and her husband, Richard Anderson, professor of singing at the conservatory, initiated a 1996-97 Winter Term project that engaged MAD Factory kids and Conservatory of Music students.

Shawn CharodThe proposal to dance with the orchestra was scary for most of the children, who had never been close to some of the instruments before. Intently watching a conservatory student open a bassoon case, one disappointed youngster cried, "Oh, look! It's broke!" After 10 rehearsals, the youngsters had learned to readily identify each instrument and were blissfully confident of their performance skills, as they became creatures of the woodlands, moving to the music between narrative portions read by Richard Anderson.

Shawn Charton, trained as a singer, learned new skills, too. He discovered that the clothes he wore made a difference--the white baton showed up best against solid black--and that conductors require specific techniques and a sustained air of friendly command. One of the most rewarding moments came when he opened this fan letter from a tiny member of the MAD group: "Dear Shaum, I really liked the way you conduced. I liked the way you moved your hands. Was it hard to memorize all those motions?"

In retrospect, Shawn says, "No, not at all, not at all."