TNCS’s Inaugural Black History Month Celebration!

At The New Century School, celebrations of culture and heritage are held regularly throughout the year, as befits the school’s mission. On Wednesday, February 26th, TNCS held a brand-new celebration/performance in honor of Black History Month. This wonderful, already much-loved event will be held annually, joining Spanish Heritage Night (that debuted in 2017) and Lunar New Year Celebration (that debuted last month).

IMG_4138 copy

Black History Month Celebration grew out of a shared desire among TNCS parents, teachers, and staff to observe Black History Month from the (upper) school-wide perspective to complement the in-class explorations regularly undertaken. TNCS Music Director Javan Bowden led students in a short choral concert, then students made division-specific presentations in their respective classrooms. These took the form of in-depth investigations of individual influential African Americans to special performance art.

At least, that was the original plan. A few days before the event, TNCS parent and Head of the TNCS Parent Council Sakina Ligon announced a very special surprise: Cuban American artist Harold Caudio agreed to join the celebration and present his one-of-a-kind (truly!) art. This presentation happened after the choral performances by students and deserves a post all of its own. Look for Immersed’s interview with Mr. Caudio next week. You won’t be disappointed. In the meantime, enjoy this preview.

Choral Performances

Mr. Bowden has been working hard with TNCS K through 8th-grade students all year on harmony. Nowhere is this more evident than in America the Beautiful (music by Samuel A. Ward, lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates, arr. Paul Jennings), a song that hit the perfect note to start off the evening. To briefly address the elephant in the blog, we wouldn’t be celebrating Black History Month were it not to begin to surmount the historic blight of slavery.

Next, students joined together in a traditional West African song (arranged by Rollo Dilworth). “Since music is an integral part of African life and culture,” read the student emcee, “every citizen is expected to develop basic skills in singing and dancing. One song and dance tradition found all over west Africa, including Liberia, is called Fanga Alafia. It is a dance of celebration use to welcome all people. The words in the Yoruba language are as follows: “fanga alafia, ashé, ashé.” Fanga means “welcome.” Alafia means “peace, good will.” The word ashé means “I agree.” This West African folk tune exhibits call and response—one singer calls with a melodic statement, then is answered with a response.

After this rousing, upbeat song, students sang Dry Your Tears, Afrika (music by John Williams, lyrics include an adapted excerpt from the poem “Dry Your Tears, Africa” by Bernard Dadi, arranged by Rollo Dilworth), another uplifting song that translates:

Dry your tears, Afrika,
Your children are coming home. We’re coming home, Afrika.
Hush child, don’t cry.
Sing a song of joy.
We’re coming home, Afrika.

Said the student who introduced it:

This piece was . . .  was composer John Williams’ contribution to the film Amistad. Amistad is a 1997 historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg based on the notable mutiny in 1839 by newly captured Mende slaves who took control of the ship La Amistad off the coast of Cuba and the international legal battle that followed their capture by a U.S. revenue brig. It became a U.S. supreme court case in 1841. The language that is sung throughout is Mende, a West African dialect primarily spoken in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A TNCS stalwart came next—good old, Stand By Me (words and music by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and Ben E. King, arranged by Roger Emerson), a song that fits so many occasions.

They closed out with Lift Every Voice and Sing (words by James Weldon Johnson, music by J. Rosamond Johnson, and arranged by Rollo Dilworth). The student introduction tells you everything you need to know about this song of solidarity:

It was right at the turn of the last century in which James Weldon Johnson wrote the poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and his brother John Rosamond Johnson later set those words to music. Often referred to as the ‘Negro National Anthem,’ this song of justice has been and continues to be performed in a variety of contexts, including civil rights marches, concerts, community gatherings, church services, commencement ceremonies, and celebrations of black history. While this piece remains prominent within African American culture, it is widely performed by people of all races and backgrounds. Its universal themes of liberation and perseverance enable us to reflect on our shared history while at the same time encouraging us all to become agents of social justice and social change.

Student Projects

As their Global Studies unit for the beginning of quarter 3, students researched and created visual presentations of a black leader, whether in politics, the arts, sports, or any other realm. They got extra points for supporting props!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Play

Finally, TNCS 5th- and 6th-graders, wrote, directed, and starred in a play that highlights some of the brilliant achievements by African Americans that have made everyone’s lives better the world over.


Maybe it’s because they needed something to throw themselves into during the winter doldrums, or maybe they were just deeply, deeply inspired. Whatever the reason, students gave this night their all. We’re already looking forward to next year!

But, don’t forget, we get to ride these great vibes another week in anticipation of a post on Harold Caudio!

TNCS Winter Concert 2019: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, and Hot Chocolate!

Elementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019_1At The New Century School, two yearly events are the most anticipated happenings of the year—the Winter and Spring performances. This year’s Elementary and Middle School Winter Concert featured new TNCS Musical Director Javan Bowden. He put together a truly great show and introduced a few new approaches to the format, including having students introduce the songs they were about to sing with an interesting tidbit about its background written by Mr. Bowden.

As always, the show started with TNCS students wowing the audience with their Mandarin Chinese and Spanish prowess.

Songs in World Languages

First up, TNCS Kindergarten and 1st-graders sang “The Face of Happiness” (幸福的脸) by composer Dàjūn Huáng.

Next, students in grades 2 through 8 took the stage to sing “Our Time” (Wǒmen de shídài,我们的时光), by TFBOYS and composed by Mr. Fantastic and Yun Yun Wang.

For the third and final selection of the world languages portion, all elementary and middle school students joined together for “La Bikina,” by Rubén Fuentes.

Strings Ensembles

Next up was the instrumental part of the show. Said TNCS strings instructor Yoshiaki Horiguchi:

Welcome to the strings portion of the Winter Concert at The New Century School. Thank you for all the music teachers and families parents and students who do everything that they do for this community. The wonderful thing about this presentation that we’re about to perform is that the strings program in its fourth year of existence, so I’ve had these kids for a few years now, and it’s such a wonderful pleasure to see them grow and learn and develop as people through instruments. The first couple of years is devoted to learning the actual instrument, but this year, we actually got to explore a lot more of the creative process and learning how to work together through music. This arrangement is something that they put together themselves. I hope you all enjoy “Appalachia Waltz,” by the TNCS Alsop String Ensemble and composed by Mark O’Connor.

The Alsop Ensemble was followed up by the Bernstein Ensemble, who played “Red Wing,” also by Mark O’Connor.

Choral Selections

The final and largest group of songs was put together by Mr. Bowden:

I’m Javan Bowden, and I have the honor of being this year’s music director at The New Century School. It has definitely been a pleasure preparing the students for our Winter Concert. We will be delivering seven selections, the first from our K/1 group, called “Winter Wiggles,” by Teresa Jennings. Here we go!

These songs had wonderful accompaniment by some friends of Mr. Bowden’s—Stephen Moore on bass guitar and Peter Roberts on piano.

tncs-winter-concert

Following the K/1 group, most of the next songs were introduced by TNCS students, as mentioned above. Next up, a TNCS 6th-grader introduced “I Have a Voice”:

Over 70 child actors from Broadway’s School of Rock,  The Lion King, Kinky Boots, On Your Feet, Matilda: The Musical, and more have lent their voices to an emotional and uplifting new anti-bullying charity single. The song “I Have a Voice” is a powerful anthem for any kid who has felt alone among his or her peers. It’s written by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Robin Lerner and can be found in the newer musical Song of Bernadette. All of the profits from the song go to http://www.nobully.org, through Broadway Kids Against Bullying, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that trains schools how to activate student compassion to stop bullying and cyber bullying.

“Hot Chocolate,” from Polar Express, written by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard and arranged by Roger Emerson, needed no introduction!

A TNCS 7th-grader introduced “My Favorite Things”:

“My Favorite Things” is a show tune from the 1959 production musical The Sound of Music, one of the famous Broadway writings from Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Rogers wrote the music, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics to this son. Although first appearing on stage in 1959, most people know the film version, which was released in 1965 and won five Oscars. The film featured actress Julie Andrews of Mary Poppins in her famed role as the musical’s leading protagonist, Maria, who was the governess of the rich Captain von Trappe’s children. This song famously appears in a scene in the film where the von Trappe children Maria look after are frightened and go into her room during a thunderstorm. She sings this tune to comfort them. This piece exemplifies “rounds in music,” where one group starts off a specific song and the next group starts to sing the same song a bit later.

“Dreams of Harmony” was introduced by another TNCS 7th-grader:

This piece derives from a large songbook entitled, Peace Songs for Children. Composer Joanne Hammil writes, “while tucking in my children one night when they were young, I was flooded with knowing that parents all over the world were doing the same. With the same big wishes for their kids’ happiness and safety and well-being and future, but simply saying their loving ‘goodnights’ in different languages. One world full of harmonies from all our glorious differences—that’s my dream. Part 1 sings “goodnight” in nine different languages: English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Swahili, Chinese, Russian, German and Hebrew. Part 2 harmonizes with Part 1, with a wish in English for us to all be ‘one family’ and to fill the world with dreams of harmony,” creating one counterpoint, which is a harmonic relationship between two voices that are independent in rhythm and contour.

A TNCS 5th-grader had the honor of introducing “When We’re Together,” with music and lyrics by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson:

In 2013, Frozen became a smash hit. Part of the reason was due to the movie’s soundtrack full of catchy and memorable songs, chief among them being Let It Go, the movie’s most show-stopping musical number. It remains to be seen whether the upcoming Frozen II will produce such a song on that same level. Nevertheless, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Disney’s new holiday featurette that continues the original Frozen story certainly tries, with “When We’re Together.”

Closing out the show was good, old “Jingle Bells,” this version with music and lyrics by James Pierpont and arranged by Betsey Lee Bailey.

tnncs-winter-concertElementary- Middle Winter Concert Program 2019

Meet Javan Bowden, TNCS’s New Music Director!

Just in time for the upcoming (and highly anticipated) annual Winter Performance, Immersed got the opportunity to interview Music Director Javan Bowden. For the 2019–2020 school year at The New Century School, it was time for former TNCS Music Director Martellies Warren to pass the conducting baton. Although it was hard to say goodbye to our longtime friend, in true Mr. Warren fashion, he made sure he was leaving the superb music program he built in very capable hands. So let’s meet the one person who was right for the job!

Javan-Bowden.jpg

Mr. Bowden and Mr. Warren have more in common than being music educators. First of all, they are both from Alabama, although they did not know each other there (Mr. Bowden’s hometown is Birmingham). Secondly, they are both vocalists for Anthony Brown & Group TherApy. “In 2017, I began an internship program with Anthony Brown’s music label,” explains Mr. Bowden. “I was pretty much his personal assistant and his road assistant for about 6 months. Then, in December of that year he needed another tenor to fill in for their annual Christmas concert. So, I sat in for that, and since then I’ve been a part of the group.”

Musical Talent

Mr. Bowden further explains that, although he is a tenor in the gospel and pop worlds, he is a lyric baritone in the classical realm. (For what that means in practice as well as to hear a sample recording, click “Talk Like an Opera Geek.”)

And, his musical talents don’t stop with voice:

Originally, in the 4th grade, I started my music journey on the trumpet when my dad put one in my hand. I kept playing classical trumpet, and I wound up going to the only fine arts high school in Alabama, Alabama School of Fine Arts. After graduating, I attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where I double minored in classical trumpet and classical voice. In my sophomore year, I let go of the trumpet because it became a little too hectic to juggle both voice and trumpet.

Mr. Bowden still resides in DC, traveling to Baltimore to teach TNCS students on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of his workweek consists of his position as data collector in the education department of the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. “There, we survey middle school kids before and after seeing a music or a theater performance to measure their sense of empathy, their consciousness,” described Mr. Bowden.

If it sounds like Mr. Bowden is a bit of a Renaissance Man, there’s more. At university, he also pursued a music business major that included courses in accounting, economics, law, management of behavior, and various other classes related to the music industry (such as with a music label or as an arts administrator). “It kind of gave me the option to be a performer or handle what’s happening behind the stage,” he said. He certainly uses this career versatility to advantage now!

Road to Education

So just how did he wind up teaching music at TNCS? “Mr. Warren extended the invitation to me,” recounts Mr. Bowden. “He knew that I was looking to expand my passion for music, and he seemed to believe that I could fill his shoes.” Prior to TNCS, Mr. Bowden subbed with Montgomery County schools as an art, English, and music instructor. “Now that I’m solely a music instructor, it has given me the opportunity to brush up on a lot of things that I learned throughout my years and reciprocate everything that was given to me to someone else—that’s really what I always wanted to do, pass along the art and love of music. Someone cared about me enough to cultivate that in me when I was a young kid, and that’s why I’m at this point. I kind of just want to give that back,” he said.

He also wasn’t necessarily interested in being an “extreme performer,” meaning that’s all he would ever do. Music majors basically have only two options, he explained, either that or teaching music, and, as he said, spreading a love of music in kids is important to him. If you’ve ever noticed how TNCS students swarm about him, then you know he is definitely giving them that. He is always smiling, and he developed a rapport with his students from the get-go.

At TNCS

“I enjoy teaching at TNCS,” he said:

It reminds me a lot of the high school I went to in terms of the many different cultures here and all of the languages spoken. It gives me another sense of why I am the way I that am, as accepting of a lot of different types of people. Even though I’m from Alabama, and it’s kind of a conservative state, I was given the opportunity to be in a space where I was accepted, and TNCS resembles that. I feel comfortable here.

His primary goal for the music program is to increase TNCS students’ “music literacy.” “I want to teach the kids to be able to be presented with a piece of music; read it; and identify the key signature, the tempo, and the clef,” he said. “It’s one thing to be orally aware of what’s happening, but it’s another thing to be able to analyze a piece of music on a page. That’s what I was brought up on, and a lot of those fundamentals are dying out. It’s like with reading and writing—you have to know how to write in order to read and read in order to write. It’s the same thing with music.”

He teaches in four separate divisions: one class comprises 5th- through 8th-graders, another 2nd- though 4th-graders, a third of Kindergarteners and 1st-graders, and finally a pre-K class (the latter meets once a month rather than twice a week).

“I have to approach the divisions differently, he explained. “I’m a bit more exacting with my older kids because I have a higher expectation of them. I remember what was expected of me at that age, and I try to replicate that as far as reading music, sight singing, oral awareness . . . I can’t expect the same thing from my K–2 students.”

With the Winter Concert looming, most classes are focused on practice currently. Mr. Bowden reports that he is excited to see all of the moving parts come together. He’s not alone!

Beyond TNCS

In his spare time, Mr. Bowden is a cantor at the Washington National Cathedral every other Sunday. He recently had the good fortune to participate in a commemorative service of the 400th anniversary of the first slave arriving in North America. “It was kind of a big program, and a lot of different delegates were there,” he said. “I was proud and very grateful to be a part of it. I love being there; they’re accepting of a lot of different types of people.”

So . . . want to hear him sing? You can find him on YouTube at both the cathedral and singing on Anthony Brown’s videos. “[2econd Wind: Ready] is my first album with the group, so I can knock that off my bucket list, actually having a real industry project that I’m a part of. I’m very grateful for that.” The album is hot off the press, just released last month, by the way.

The last thing Mr. Bowden wanted the TNCS community to know about him? “I’m a lover of music and people,” he finished. Welcome to TNCS, Javan Bowden!