On Thursday, June 7th the Quaker Ridge orchestra invited classically trained pop artist Jess Turner to do a showcase of her musical flair. With a program that demonstrated her command of the cello, piano, and guitar and also revealed a warm and sumptuous voice, Ms. Turner had students locked in sync with her alluring songs. Whether led in pensive thought through her fanciful lyrics in “Deeper” and “Shakespeare” or swinging with upbeat melodies in “Just the Way You Are,” the Quaker Ridge audience was truly captivated by Ms. Turner’s charismatic performance.
Jess Turner’s visit was one of several musical performances organized for Quaker Ridge, which together worked to expose the students to diverse sounds of music, from classical to modern, instrumental to vocal, local to international. But Ms. Turner’s unique fusion of her classical training and pop influences really separates her visit from other musical experiences. “I believe that a classical music background can mesh flawlessly with a pop music sensibility,” states Turner, who cinched her point with a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit “Call Me Maybe,” a show-stopping final number that had both district administrators and students boogying. Accompanied by Jessica Elkhatib on the cello and Jessica Li (high school senior intern) on the violin, this song especially revealed the higher purpose of the event. By creating popular sounds that incorporate these classical string instruments, both Turner and Elkhatib hoped to reemphasize the continued relevance, the “cool factor” of the instruments that orchestra students play. “People always respect pop artists more if they’re classically trained—their traditional knowledge adds an element of sophistication to their music,” says Elkhatib. As an orchestra teacher who enjoys diversifying her classical instrument lessons with refreshing, modern sounds, Ms. Elkhatib hopes to inspire in her students not only a lasting knowledge of how to play, but also of how to love to play.
With the overwhelmingly positive response, Ms. Turner herself enjoyed a first experience playing for a large group of children. “I really liked it. I didn’t anticipate that they would be so mature. One shy kid in the back asked ‘Why did you start writing music?’ which was unbelievably perceptive, mature, and intellectual. I think they’re really grasping what goes into creating music.” With insightful reflections from her experience at Quaker Ridge, Ms. Turner hopes to move forward to continue imparting important messages to young musicians. “What I need to emphasize is that I started somewhere. I remember seeing more mature and developed musicians when I was young and feeling incredibly intimidated and rather hopeless. Not only was I not good when I was their age I wasn’t even good when I hit 16!” With a successful experience for both performer and audience, Turner and Elkhatib plan to collaborate in the near future for follow-up song-writing workshops and other musically educational activities.
For more information on Jess Turner, please consult her website. Also be sure to check out her latest album in iTunes to sample the songs she played at Quaker Ridge:
This article was contributed by Scarsdale High School student Jess Li.