Interview: Pamela Martinez (Composer & Lyricist for "To Dream a World"

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by Rachel Wilson

On Saturday June 23, the Brooklyn Music School’s Music Theatre Program will present the performance of “To Dream a World”. This unique performance features an original tale of how William Shakespeare imagined the characters for his works. As a boy, his dreams take him to magical worlds where he meets the characters that eventually end up in his plays.

Pamela Martinez is a voice, piano, violin, guitar, and harp instructor at Brooklyn Music School. I spoke with Pamela, who is one of the composers and lyricists for “To Dream a World,” and asked her about her work with the show and why it is unique and worth seeing.

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Q: What do you think makes this production unique?

A: I definitely think that having a team of Brooklyn creators and women creators working on original content for children is pretty awesome. I feel like that can only happen in Brooklyn because there are so many creators here. Also, I think having this particular play is unique because it’s a Shakespearean focused play for children. It’s not one of his plays, so it’s not a watered-down version of his art, it’s a new piece that introduces children to the art and work of Shakespeare. Creating Will as a child so children will be interested in it, it’s a fictional biography of Will Shakespeare as a kid, which I can tell the children were connecting to.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the show/music?

A: We begin with a concept worth writing about and teaching about. We thought it was worth teaching about Shakespeare, we thought it was worth writing about the seasons. We usually base it on a myth, a fable, another opera or a character, a fictional or real life character. But we start with a teachable concept or concept we feel is worth teaching about, in this case it was William Shakespeare. In other cases, Greek or Roman mythology, or another composer we can teach about that inspired the work that we can completely recreate music for based on a character or myth.

Q: What is the overall process for putting together a show like this?

A: It’s a lot, a lot of work. Opera is the Italian word for WORK and they’re not kidding. The original intention was to create an original piece of art that was all of us together. I like working on this team, I like building a team that has like a lexicon, a library of experience to draw on. We’re growing together, it’s not 3 months at a time, it’s not a semester at a time, it’s growing over years. I’ve worked at BMS for 8 years and I’ve been writing for this project for two years.

Q: What is it like working with the students?

A: This season I didn’t work with the students directly. I have before. The best I can say is it’s best that the students work up to the task. We have professional, high level expectations. It’s not baby stuff. This is one that is pre-conservatory training, we have pretty high expectations for our performers. Not every student continues their studies but the ones that do, they flower and they blossom and they learn, so it’s the students growing as well as the writing and directing team. I’ve been writing music for like, 20 years, I started when I was a kid. I’ve mostly been seeing myself as a songwriter than a composer. I have a lot of experience recording, and I think this is the next step, taking the children into the studio, and teaching how music is passed along. I think that’s a big part of being a performer, learning how to share your work.

I have another project I work with called Whisper Lodge. It’s immersive theatre, it’s seasonal. We’ve had NY Times reviews, Buzz feed News reviews. A Netflix Documentary for the project comes out in July. That one I direct as well and work with the teens. I think there are very talented young people in Brooklyn. I mean all over, but luckily, they hear about Brooklyn Music School because we are at the heart of Brooklyn and we’ve been around for 100 years. We have a mentoring program for students who are under 18 who want to work for the school. I feel like that program has been centered towards rock students, for some reason. I would love to see more mentors brought in through the musical theater and dance programs. I don’t have a lot of harp students, there’s harp in the play and I‘m the harp instructor. I have two piano students that I’ve converted to harp, but I would love to find more harp students. I teach a lot of things but I would love more harp students!

Q: What do you think makes this show worth seeing?

A: The costumes are phenomenal! It’s worth seeing, it’s a very photographical play. Something unique about the costuming, which was done by Deborah Houston, is she used to run a Shakespeare company, so the costumes come from an authentic company. I would throw out the idea as far as parents who are looking for projects for their children. We’re studying content that is important and essential for a budding artist, studying some sort of literature or art.