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Monarch Migration: When Music Takes Flight in Schools

May 18, 2023


  • Conservation Stories
Nubia Jaime-Donjuan

In the realm of art and education, collaborations between artists and schools have proven to be a powerful tool fo

r creativity and learning. Such partnerships bring fresh perspectives, inspire young minds, and ignite a passion for the arts. Today, we delve into the story of a remarkable composer who, in close collaboration with schools, embarked on a journey to create a mesmerizing musical piece for wind-band and full orchestra titled Monarch Migration.

At the heart of this captivating project is Matthew Oyen, a high school band and orchestra director from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Matthew was inspired by the award-winning picture book Monarch Butterflies: Explore the Life Journey of One of the Winged Wonders of the World (Storey Publishing) by author Ann Hobbie and illustrator Olga Baumert. This book shares the remarkable biology, cultural significance, and importance of supporting this iconic species and its spectacular yearly migration to the coasts of California and the mountains of central Mexico. The journey and peril of the monarch butterflies tell an important story of the interconnectedness of our actions. Nubia.

Matthew saw in the book an opportunity to share a musical version of the unique monarch migration with high school, college, and university-level musicians nationwide. Through his network with Dr. Brian Messier’s Mexican Repertoire Initiative at Dartmouth College, these directors connected with the talented Mexican composer Nubia Jaime Donjuan. With a deep admiration for nature's wonders and a desire to connect youth with the world around them, Nubia was an excellent choice to create a musical composition that would not only narrate the fascinating journey of the monarch butterfly but also engage and educate students on the importance of conservation and the wonders of the natural world.

Through Matthew and Brian, Monarch Migration was commissioned by a consortium of 41 schools throughout the United States. While Monarch Migration is being performed by some consortium members this spring, Nubia Jaime-Donjuan will also arrange this music for string and full orchestras this fall.

The impact of Monarch Migration extends far beyond the concert hall. Students who participate in the project are developing a newfound appreciation for music, nature, and their own creative abilities. The experience instills a sense of environmental responsibility and sparks a desire to explore and protect the world around them. The project serves as a catalyst for interdisciplinary learning, combining music, science, and conservation into a unified educational experience.

The Monarch Migration stands as a testament to the incredible potential that lies within collaborations between composers and schools. Through the shared experience of creating a musical composition, students gain not only musical skills but also a profound connection to the natural world. The project demonstrates that art has the power to transcend boundaries, inspire change, and ignite a lifelong love for both music and the environment. As we celebrate the triumph of Monarch Migration, let it serve as a reminder of the transformative power of creativity and the lasting impact it can have on the lives of young minds.

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