Rehearsing Philadelphia was a citywide art-based public project created by Berlin-based composer and artist, Ari Benjamin Meyers, and jointly produced and presented by The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and The Curtis Institute of Music. The project was supported by the first inter-institutional collaborative grant awarded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. This project took place March 25-April 10, 2022.
Rehearsing Philadelphia consisted of four performative modules - Solo, Duet, Ensemble and Orchestra. As part of these modules, newly commissioned works were performed live and involved in-person audience encounters at a variety of public and private venues across the city, including Philadelphia City Hall, the School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Police Headquarters, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Cherry Street Pier and more. To accompany the live performances, artistic partner and digital strategist Van Newman designed a parallel digital space where audiences experienced public art in the digital form.
During the collaborative city-wide project, one aspect, the first Public Orchestra, was dedicated to honoring the diversity of the sonic landscape of Philadelphia. Members of this orchestra were from a wide variety of musical backgrounds and experiences. The orchestra performed specially commissioned works by internationally renowned artists including Ann Carlson, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Sun Ra Arkestra, Xenia Rubinos, and Ursula Rucker and was led by Anthony Tidd.
“Traditional musical preparation focuses on rehearsing as a way to attain perfection, which then gets repeated in performance. This is not how we live modern life in a rapidly changing world of social and political upheaval, faced with pandemic outbreaks and looming environmental catastrophe. The future will be rehearsed, not perfected. Rehearsing Philadelphia re-examines the rehearsal processes as something that can allow people to act together and be empowered to create new realities; as an empathic learning process of transmission and translation, and as itself a mode of knowledge production.” - Ari Benjamin Meyers
One of the four modules, Ensemble, consisted of performances of new and existing repertory by a joint ensemble of Curtis and Drexel students performing together.
Rehearsing Philadelphia enlisted nearly 200 local and international artists, including musicians from the Philadelphia region; students from Drexel and Curtis; and acclaimed composers, creators, and dancers.
Notable participants include:
Ursula Rucker, Poet, Performer and Recording Artist
Germaine Ingram, Dancer and Choreographer
Fred Schmidt-Arenales, Artist and Filmmaker
Tyshawn Sorey, Composer and Multi-Instrumentalist
Philadelphia Heritage Chorale
Dover Quartet, String Quartet
“Rehearsing Philadelphia brought people together through shared experiences of music and art, modeling a vision for Philadelphia that prioritizes dialogue (rehearsing) between diverse individuals and communities. We were delighted to have Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and The Curtis Institute of Music students participating in this landmark project.”- Mary Javian, Chair of Career Studies at The Curtis Institute of Music
“Rather than a series of one-off public performances, each encounter unfolded as a process, a series of public rehearsals exploring new forms of collectivity and agency, where conditions are impermanent, seemingly ever-changing and the future unknown. This project reframed musical rehearsal as a process, as an essentially non-discursive activity, which allows people to act together and be empowered to create new realities.”- Dr. Miriam Giguere, Department Head of Performing Arts in the Westphal College
The project began the week of March 25, 2022, and culminated with all four phases having final performances on Sunday, April 10, 2022.
Read more about this project in the Philadelphia Tribune and Philly Mag.
Want to know more about The Public Orchestra? Read the manifesto.
Read more about the Solo module in the Inquirer!
Ari Benjamin Meyers
Ari Benjamin Meyers (b. 1972, USA) lives and works in Berlin. Meyers received his training as a composer and conductor at The Juilliard School, Yale University, and Peabody Institute. Trading the concert format for that of the exhibition, his widely exhibited works – such as Kunsthalle for Music (2018), Symphony 80 (with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra) and Solo for Ayumi (both 2017) – explore structures and processes that redefine the performative, social, and ephemeral nature of music as well as the relationship between performer and audience. His work has been presented and exhibited in major institutions and festivals around the world and his diverse practice features performances for the stage and for exhibition spaces as well as three operas including a commission for the Semperoper Dresden, a ballet for the Paris Opera, and most recently the experimental music-theater work Forecast (2021) for the Volksbühne Berlin. Meyers has often worked collaboratively and has realized multiple joint projects with artists such as Tino Sehgal, Anri Sala, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, as well as with bands such as The Residents, Chicks on Speed, and Einstürzende Neubauten. A number of his more recent productions including the upcoming Werksorchester (2022), the ongoing The Long Parade (2021), and Changing of the Guards (2018) focus on the public and civic sphere and involve large-scale communal rituals.
Van Newman is a strategist, designer, writer, space maker, music producer and DJ based in Brooklyn, NY. Their work lies in connecting dots, closing gaps and creating spaces that don’t exist through building products and spaces that live across the digital and the physical. Vanessa currently leads product strategy at Somewhere Good, a social search designed to connect people of color to the content and communities they love. They are also the co-founder of In Session, a digital initiative committed to creating and showcasing powerful communities of women, nonbinary, and trans music producers, and the founder of Design To Divest, a Black-led collective of designers, artists, technologists and strategists designing equitable futures by divesting from inequitable institutions, as well as No Insights, a community for women, nonbinary and trans strategists of color in the advertising & media industries.
The Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. To ensure that admissions are based solely on artistic promise, Curtis makes an investment in each admitted student so that no tuition is charged for their studies. In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings in Philadelphia and around the world.
The Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design
The center for creativity at Drexel University, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design trains the next generation of scholars, thinkers, makers, and doers in the fields of media, entertainment, design, and the visual and performing arts. Westphal offers 18 undergraduate and nine graduate majors housed in award-winning facilities that encourage collaboration across creative disciplines. At Westphal, we reimagine the role of design, media, and the arts in building a better future. Our programs challenge students to center sustainability, access, and equity in their approaches to design, creative work, and scholarship. Through experiential learning, studio-based curriculum, and Drexel’s widely recognized cooperative education (co-op) program, our students are uniquely positioned to face the world’s challenges and define the creative careers of the 21st century.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grant maker and hub for knowledge-sharing, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center invests in ambitious, imaginative, and catalytic work that showcases the region’s cultural vitality and enhances public life, and it engages in an exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.