Arts & Culture

Olympia Symphony Orchestra and The Bridge span genres for outdoor Capitol concert

Symphony members recording with youth from The Bridge Music Project. From left, Damian Nelson, Annie Daulton, Emily Lang, Josh Holman, Elliot Loudenback, and Holly Reeves.
Symphony members recording with youth from The Bridge Music Project. From left, Damian Nelson, Annie Daulton, Emily Lang, Josh Holman, Elliot Loudenback, and Holly Reeves. Courtesy of The Bridge Music Project

Along with the traditional military marches and season highlights, the Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s Concert at the Capitol this year will feature two new works — songs written by and performed with local teens and young adults.

And these aren’t classical compositions. In fact, one is a rap song.

The hard-edged but not explicit “All Honesty” and the other new piece, the melancholy folk-pop “Emerald City,” are the results of a collaboration between the symphony and The Bridge Music Project, an Olympia nonprofit that teaches young people to express themselves through music and gives them the opportunity to be heard.

Three of the symphony’s string players will accompany Bridge musicians on those songs at the concert, as they did on the Bridge’s first album, out this weekend.

“The Bridge is doing really important work,” said Jennifer Hermann, the symphony’s executive director. “And the unexpectedness of them doing it together with the symphony just gives me chills. It touches my heart that we can not only support each other’s work but actually do our work together.”

She’s not sure how symphony stalwarts will react to the collaboration. “I’m a little bit nervous and a little bit excited to see how it goes,” she told The Olympian. “It might shock some people, but that’s OK.

“It will be really fun for our audience to see that music can transcend generations and can transcend formal training and come together for a common purpose,” she told The Olympian. “I think that’s really exciting.”

Also titled “All Honesty,” The Bridge’s album gives a bigger platform for expression to 11 of the 700 or so youths who’ve worked with the project since 2014. Seattle rapper Xolo, previously known as Kid Sensation, also makes a guest appearance on the disc.

“The album includes hip-hop, folk, a little bit of light rock and then the symphony flavor,” Bridge director Bobby Williams told The Olympian. “It’s very eclectic.

“It’s about the youth sharing their stories,” he said. “You really get a sense of their personalities and what’s in their hearts.”

The opportunity to work with the orchestra was an unexpected bonus.

“Everyone was thrilled,” Williams said. “As an artist, it’s a pretty high achievement to be able to work with symphony members. It was a real honor that they wanted to collaborate.”

He and Hermann hit upon the idea to work together in May, when the Thurston Economic Development Council named The Bridge its nonprofit of the year. At that point, Williams, producer Matt Smokovich and the songwriters and performers were already at work on the album, produced in cooperation with the City of Olympia.

“Jennifer mentioned that she was interested in collaborating, and I kind of jokingly said, ‘Let’s feature the symphony on a track,’ ” Williams recalls.

Hermann took him seriously, and it wasn’t long until cellist Holly Reeves, violinist Annie Daulton and violist Damian Nelson were working on “All Honesty” with Tyrique Hardnett, 19, a student at South Puget Sound Community College, and Mike Jones, 20, of Olympia, and “Emerald City” with Josh Holman, 19, and Elliot Loudenback, 20, both students at Grays Harbor Community College in Aberdeen.

While this will be the first time the orchestra has showcased rap at a concert, the Concert at the Capitol traditionally includes a wide variety of music.

Sunday’s program includes a salute to members of the armed forces and other patriotic pieces; selections from last season’s repertoire; and two fun medleys, one featuring James Bond movie themes and the other songs about New York City. (Yes, “New York, New York” is one of them.)

That kind of variety, along with the relaxed atmosphere of an outdoor concert where picnicking is welcome, attracts a younger audience than a typical Olympia Symphony concert.

“There are lots of families and first-time concertgoers,” Hermann said. “I love watching all of the kids dancing and conducting and singing and talking. They don’t have to sit down and be quiet.”

Concert at the Capitol

  • What: The Olympia Symphony Orchestra’s annual free outdoor community concert features a wide array of music, including a collaboration with the young artists of The Bridge Music Project.
  • When: 6 p.m. Sunday, July 28
  • Where: Capitol Campus, 416 Sid Snyder Ave. SW, Olympia
  • Tickets: Free, with donations appreciated
  • More information: 360-753-0074, olympiasymphony.org
  • Parking: Free parking is available on the campus and in nearby neighborhoods. Designated parking for people with disabilities will be available near the concert location.

The Bridge Music Project album release party

  • What: The Olympia nonprofit that teaches youths about self-expression through music is celebrating the release of its first album, “All Honesty,” which features well-known Seattle rapper Xola (formerly Kid Sensation) and musicians from Olympia Symphony Orchestra.
  • When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27
  • Where: Octapas Café, 414 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia
  • Tickets: By donation, with funds collected going to the performers
  • More information: bridgemusicproject.org
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