In January 2009 I came across Stefan Heucke's The Selfish Giant for piano-four hands and narrator, based on the homonymous fairy tale by Oscar Wilde. At that time I performed as a member of the piano duo Duo Vivo, and as we started learning this work we came up with the idea of presenting it in a school to an audience of students. This idea turned into a project that took place a couple of months later at the Oscar Romero College in Hoorn, north of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. We gave four performances, two in Dutch and two in English, collaborating with two teachers from the school. Although this performance was a great challenge for us, as we had never played for an audience of students before, the overall result was quite unexpected for everyone, including ourselves.
The following year we were invited by the same school to present a similar project. This time we performed The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns, collaborating with an ensemble especially formed for this project. The same two teachers we had worked with the previous year were the narrators again. We gave a total of nine performances in Dutch and English.
These projects were related to the English and Dutch literature classes, thus, giving the opportunity to teachers to hand out questionnaires during the performances, as well as having the students interact with us. Soon all this was featured in the local and school's newspapers. Since other schools started showing interest, for our 2011 project we commissioned a new work, of which we gave the world premiere, and performed it 11 times. This was The Traveling Musicians for piano-four hands and narrator by Nickos Harizanos, based on the homonymous fairy tale by Brothers Grimm. Some students expressed the wish to actively participate and created their own staging and costumes!
From our first experience in 2009, we came to realize how important it is to present such projects to students, especially while in middle school. They are given the opportunity to create an idea through live experience. Boosting their imagination is an important tool to encourage young people to create and strengthen critical thought. The essential target of these projects is not to convey the audience to like what they hear and see, but to give them the opportunity to participate, and decide on their own.