Berko’s December Update! – LOCC Blog

By Alex Berko
December 14, 2023

It’s probably the Midwesterner in me, but I love talking to people. I think that everyone has something to say and a lot of people have great stories to tell.

Over the past several weeks, I have had the privilege to spend time and hear stories from some very special people in Louisville. As part of my community engagement project here, I’ve been going into the J-Town Senior Center and Cochrane Elementary to talk with adults and kids about music and the creative process. We’ve been having a wonderful time and in the middle of January, I will present a new work that we co-created during these sessions.

Two weeks ago, I introduced the everyone to the art of composing. I did so through improvisation. Adlibbing is how I started composing and it’s a large part of how I still write today. In our session, I asked everyone to name a feeling and pair it with an animal. On the piano, I improvised a short piece that told the story of that animal. We got some fun ones: an active puppy, a lazy cat, and a sad butterfly. (The cat and the butterfly met, then they fought, and then the cat got hungry…)

The next stage of the project involved interviews with the kids and adults. The large question that began this whole thing for me was: How do we make sense of the world as we grow up? I devised several smaller questions to help me answer the larger one. Here’s a sample:

What makes you happy?

Who is your favorite person in the whole world?

What do you wonder about?

What do you love about yourself?

What are you grateful for?

What are you sorry for?

What do you believe in?

Last week, I asked these questions to the kids at Cochrane and the adults at the senior center and I recorded their responses. The answers are wonderful, sometimes surprising, and fully honest. I’ve included a very short clip below.


Next week, a string quartet comprised of Louisville Orchestra musicians will join me Cochrane and J-Town Senior Center to show off their instruments and improvise with me at the piano. I am so excited for the seniors and kids to have this time with these stellar musicians and see how we all work together to bring a new piece of music to life.

The final stage is for me to organize the interview footage and weave music throughout. I’ll then bring back what I have created to both the kids and seniors who will give final input before we publicly present the work at J-Town Senior Center on January 23rd.