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Virtual Virtuosos Derek and VanNessa Silbermann Tapped For Inaugural Musical Offering

Ceremonies for President-Elect Joe Biden’s and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris’ inauguration will include Santa Clara musical duo Derek and VanNessa Hulme Silbermann’s virtual production “Brand New Day,” to be shown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 18.

“We want to spread hope in the country through community service via the arts,” said Derek. “Arts provide opportunities for community involvement, growth, education, and unification. This is what the Inauguration Project is about.”

The virtual production features soloists, a band, dancers, a children’s choir and a volunteer 100 voice adult choir singing Luther Vandross’ “Brand New Day” from The Wiz, with VanNessa as producer/director and Derek as music director.

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Performers from across the U.S. recorded their own performances and Derek edited and mixed the final performance.

“Creating music that could be practiced and recorded by someone 3,000 miles away required a certain level of preciseness on the parts of the directors,” Derek said, “something that most aren’t used to being, as we live our lives being ‘in the flow.’

“And then there’s the internet,” he continued. “Who knew that Ohio doesn’t have fast internet.”

The production began in casual conversation between the Silbermanns and Los Angeles musician and community arts advocate Joel Brown. The small informal idea quickly grew into a full-blown professional production. 

“The Inauguration Project is about everyday people coming together to do something spectacular,” said Derek. “The most talented people can lack passion, and talent alone doesn’t create success. But when 100 passionate, regular people come together, with a clear vision, dedication, and hard work, magic happens.”

Originally from Southern California, both Silbermanns come from musical backgrounds and teach jazz, pop and classical piano, voice and composition in their Santa Clara studio. They’re active performers, theater and music directors with special focus on music pedagogy.

Musical from the cradle, VanNessa produced her first show at seven and was teaching music at 18. She has sung opera, musical theater and jazz and was a Metropolitan Opera Western Region finalist.

Derek comes from a family of organ builders, and is a descendent of renowned keyboard instrument builder Gottfried Silbermann (1683 – 1753), a contemporary of J.S. Bach who built some of the most famous organs in Europe, built pianos for Frederick the Great and made significant advances in the development of the piano.

 

Going Virtual

When the couple moved to Santa Clara to be closer to family, they continued to teach their Los Angeles voice and keyboard students remotely. Necessity being the mother of invention, when COVID-19 shut down in-person programs and lessons, the Silbermanns became experts in virtual teaching and performance, including virtually conducting the choir at St. Marks Church where Derek is music director.

“We were planning a Broadway boot camp last summer,” said Derek. “But when Coronavirus happened we couldn’t do it. So we thought, let’s do a virtual production and have kids write a musical — because you can’t get rights to stream musicals online.”

The production included 16 young people from six to 16 from the Bay Area and Southern California; with kids doing everything from writing the musical, to making costumes to shooting their performances.

“We let the kids brainstorm and we ended up with an animal adventure under the sea: Esmeralda’s Mystery: The Secret and the Shell,” said Derek.

That first show grew into the Write a Movie Musical! (WAMM!) program. The Hero Crew went online in December, and another show is planned for spring.

About a quarter of the students are on the autism spectrum, but they participate fully.

“We’re dedicated to providing educational experiences to neuro-atypical students,” said VanNessa. “When we began WAMM! we wanted those students to participate. We met each student where they were and used their unique talents to create characters and musical contributions.

“For example, one of our stars is a non-verbal autistic child who is brilliant, funny and insightful,” she continued. “Instead of words, he used the drums, piano and cartoon call-out boxes. It’s not kids that need to change, it’s us. When we got creative, our neuro-atypical kids became the stars of the show.”

You can watch the Inauguration Project: Brand New Day on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at 12 noon, at www.mobilize.us/nationaldayofservice/event/369068/ — it’s free, but you need to sign up — and subsequently the Silbermann’s YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/Corion101, where you can also find the WAMM! shows and other performances.

For more information about Silbermann Studios visit SilbermannStudios.com.

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