A few months ago, we heard that the good people over at Carnegie Hall would be celebrating their 125th anniversary this year with a very special project. The idea is to unite all of New York City around one theme — the song “Somewhere” from the timeless musical West Side Story. As big musical nerds, especially concerning 1950s hybrid musical/opera/gang-ballets, we loved this idea and asked how we could be involved.
Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of The Somewhere Project: A West Side Story Companion on Soundfly — an in-depth journey into the music, dance, drama, social issues, and other artistic elements of West Side Story, hosted and explained by some of the world’s foremost experts on the musical.
In the course, you’ll hear stories and insights about the dance, script, and music, with a focus on how the legacy and inspiration behind West Side Story make the musical uniquely relevant today.
The concept behind Carnegie Hall’s year-long Somewhere Project is to collectively re-define New York City as a “place for us.” The project culminates in a three-day residency at the Knockdown Center in Queens, with performances of West Side Story that bring together high school students, world-class musicians, and award-winning artists, alongside exhibitions of the work community partners and Carnegie Hall’s teaching artists have done across the city.
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Given this concept, we wanted to focus our companion course on creative action as well. As you go through it, you’ll be asked to not only consider West Side Story from its historical and artistic perspective, but also to engage with the work — drawing it forward through time and bringing it to life in today’s world. In each section, experts will give you a specific challenge to take on — from filming your own audition video to creating your own work of art that tackles a social issue.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this monumental work of art, and maybe even take on some of the challenges within the course! Ready to learn more? Here’s a look at what we’ve got in store…
Origins with Jamie Bernstein
The first part of the course focuses on the context for West Side Story. Hosted by Leonard Bernstein’s daughter Jamie, this section walks you through the writing and development process the creators undertook and how it all came together.
Impact with Charles Burchell
One thing that makes West Side Story so special is that it brought serious, dark issues to the attention of a wide audience through a medium that was not normally associated with social change. Cultural diplomat Charles Burchell takes you through some of the ins-and-outs of trying to create social change through art.
Music with Marin Alsop
The music of West Side Story is timeless, marrying an incredible variety of influences in a complex yet catchy weaving of rhythm, melody, and instrumentation. Marin Alsop, Leonard Bernstein’s protégée and music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, takes us through the music, showing how it’s all built on a single idea and how it captures the tension of the plot.
Performance with Leslie Stifelman and Melissa Rae Mahon
West Side Story was not the first musical to require its performers to sing, dance, and act simultaneously, but it was one of the more complex musicals to do so. Leslie Stifelman, music director of Chicago: The Musical, teams up with one of Chicago’s star performers, Melissa Rae Mahon, to talk about the challenges of performing and auditioning for a musical like West Side Story. Carly Hughes and Ryan Worsing also appear in special performance cameos.
Dance with Julio Monge
Broadway performer and choreographer Julio Monge, a former student of Jerome Robbins, explores the inspiration behind some of the dance moves in West Side Story and demonstrates how dance serves to bring the story to life.
Drama with Amanda Dehnert
Northwestern University professor and acclaimed director Amanda Dehnert, who will be directing Carnegie Hall’s culminating performances of West Side Story this March, explains the elements of the script that make this work so dramatic and compelling — and how the director and actors work together to bring it to life.
Check out our free course, “The Somewhere Project: A West Side Story Companion” here, and head over to Carnegie Hall to learn what else they’ve got planned for the Somewhere Project!
What’s your favorite element of West Side Story? Let us know in the comments below!