022: Composer and improviser Julie Kaplan sparks kids’ imaginations

Julie Kaplan has written music inspired by pollinators, icebergs, and astronauts! She teaches improvisational games to kids and writes super singable songs just for them. Julie is cool! In this episode, you’ll hear her discuss her entree into music, improvisation, and a new ensemble, the Curious Theatre Collective.

Julie Kaplan, music composer and actor, has written music for dance, theater, and video, and her music has been performed throughout the US, in the Czech Republic, and in Nepal. She is a co-founder and performer with the Curious Theatre Collective, she performs in the Transactors Improv Company, and teaches improv to elementary school kids in Chapel Hill.

In addition to talking about Julie’s background as a composer and improviser, we discuss our experience working together with the Curious Theatre Collective and the play that we and the other members of CTC have written and performed for elementary schools in the Triangle. The title of the play is Sally’s Ride: To Space and Beyond!  It has singing and audience participation, and describes Sally Ride’s life as the first female American astronaut, as well as the past, present, and future of space exploration, and the contributions of women to the space program.

This episode is brought to you by the Soapboxers, the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox. If you like these episodes and want more, get on the Soapbox! This episode was recorded at the ASBX home studio.

Time break-down:

[0:00] Episode intro and Julie’s bio.

[1:14] Julie’s introduction to music as a child, what inspired her, and her decision to pursue composition in college. The jolt of entering an collegiate environment after having been a self-taught composer who preferred Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

[6:05] Julie’s definition of herself now as a composer and what influences her. Deep listening. Examples of Julie’s original work.

[8:57] Julie’s jump into improvisation and the Transactors Improv Company.

[10:38] The skills of improv and the skills of composition — is there a link between them? Do they influence one another? What does it take to do the improvised musical shows of the Transactors? (It’s sooo hard!)

[13:19] Julie’s approach to composing music and the inspiration that she draws from science and nature. For example, she’s written compositions about pollination and icebergs!

[15:35] Curious Theatre Collective: Why did this new venture appeal to Julie, and why did she jump on board?

[17:15] What is it like to write music for children’s theatre vs. music for adults? Julie’s daily practice of composing songs at home for her children for the last 8 years, and their favorite pieces. For them, “creating is a normal part of being.”

[21:33] Finishing the songs for Sally’s Ride: To Space and Beyond, with CTC member, Emma Nadeau

[22:47] Writing the Sally Ride script in a collaborative style with the rest of the CTC members over the last year.

[25:22] What has it been like to perform Sally’s Ride: To Space and Beyond in front of hundred’s of actual children in elementary schools?

[27:14] Julie’s work with kids and improv via Transactors and her after school classes. Why is it important to Julie to work with kids and what do they learn? What’s an improv exercise the kids really seem to respond to? How does she talk to kids about the concepts behind the exercises?

[32:55] Observations that Julie has made about entrepreneurship and the arts. Approaching your art as if it’s your job.

[38:17] Julie’s mindset for balancing all the ‘stuff and stress of life’ and treating it all as an adventure.

[41:19] What’s next for Julie Kaplan?

[42:32] Thanks and sign-off

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