Sacramento composer uses Kickstarter to educate
Sacramento composer and band leader Harley White, Jr. is writing and arranging “Louis and the Gator,” a New Orleans-style Jazz re-write of Sergie Prokofievs’ musical “Peter and the Wolf.” White will begin to officially promote the project on the fundraising website Kickstarter.com starting Sep. 30.
His goal is to raise $9,000 by Nov. 10 to fund a live performance of “Louis and the Gator,” record a CD featuring his jazz arrangements of Prokofievs’ compositions, produce an interactive educational DVD and write a children’s book.
Launched in 2009, Kickstarter.com allows entrepreneurs and artists to post projects and garner funding from investors who can donate any amount from $1 to thousands. By donating their money, these investors are in return promised something from the creator of the project. If the project is not funded by a specified date, no one pays.
“Louis and the Gator” has raised $192 so far. White has 48 days left to reach his goal.
This project is White’s attempt at educating adults and children on the history of American music. The story is closely based off of USSR composer Sergei Prokofievs’ “Peter and the Wolf,” a musical about a young boy who captures a wolf and then convinces a group of hunters to take it to a zoo rather than shoot it.
But within this tale of childhood animal empathy is a composer’s desire to educate the Soviet youth on symphonic music.
“‘Peter and the Wolf’ was commissioned by Moscow to help their cultural arts program in the mid 30s,” White said, “to help children understand the four families of instruments that can be found in the symphony orchestra: the percussion family, the reed family, the brass family and the string family.”
Some of Whites’ changes for “Louis and the Gator,” include Louis Armstrong as Peter, famed jazz trumpeter Charlie Parker as the bird and New Orleans’ native alligator in place of the wolf.
The 46-year-old Midtown resident, professional composer and band leader has been involved in music since his childhood. He released two records with Papa’s Culture in the ‘90’s; played on albums by Cake, Blackalicious and Faith Evans; and he plays bass in the Harley White, Jr. Orchestra.
“I respect and honor music education,” he said. “I teach music, but I am not a music teacher in the traditional sense.”
White educates through conversation. This became clear as he spoke about the jazz roots of the wah-wah pedal, a brief biography of musicologist Alan Lomax, and Duke Ellington’s decision to place a microphone closer to the bassist which, White believes, acted as a catalyst for the heavier sound of the music in the 1950s and onwards.
“Louis and the Gator” is his attempt at making this kind of knowledge interesting to the public, and accessible to children.
“I’m doing my part to do programming that people can take their kids to, and that’s still fine art,” White said.
The performance of “Louis and the Gator”will be a completely live, all-ages show. The date and location will depend upon whether or not White gets enough funding.
“The musicians will be in a pit,” White said. “I will be playing bass, and I’m thinking about putting together a dance piece–a modern jazz ballet if you will.”
According to his Kickstarter page, White hopes to eventually tour the country to educate the public on American music, and entertain them too.
Producing the recordings of Whites’ Prokofiev arrangements is Tower of Power keyboardist Roger Smith. Smith has produced albums for Jeff Beck, Gladys Knight, and Willie Nelson among others.
Some of the gifts that White is offering to investors on Kickstarter are tickets to the performance of “Louis and the Gator,” interactive DVD’s, private music lessons and even a catered private Harley White, Jr. Orchestra performance for those who donate $1,000 or more.
For more information, or to donate, go to the “Louis and the Gator” Kickstarter page.