Kelvin Sokk, 14, received roars of approval and applause from the audience after leading the Creekside Symphony Orchestra in an arrangement of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” at the Annual Spring Concert at Creekside Middle School.
The arrangement was put together by Kelvin himself, which is uncommon for a student of his age, considering the work and skill that is required to properly do so.
“Kelvin is one of my students. He is an eighth grader. He plays violin and he came to me some grader. He plays violin, and he came to me some time in February with an arrangement of Despacito. He had it originally arranged for a few instruments like violin, cello, clarinet and saxophone. I asked him if he would be able to arrange (it) for a full orchestra, all string and wind instruments, and he said he would be up for the challenge. So he came back from spring break with a full arrangement,” said Creekside Elementary School Music Director, Jordan Cain.
Cain, who studied music at Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University, said that in order to successfully orchestrate an arrangement, one would need to understand instrument classification, and adequately assign those instruments to the production.
Editor’s note: Instrument classification refers to the type; e.g., woodwinds, strings, percussion.
“You have to understand which instruments do a certain job. You have to know the ranges of the instruments to write the correct notes and transpositions, and you have to have a really good ear. I’m pretty sure he just listened to the song on the radio over and over again and got the chords off the website and used his ear to fill in the rest. To see a 14-year-old doing that is not only impressive, but it exhibits a very high level of work ethic, and appreciation and understanding for the rest of the instruments,” Cain said.
After originally writing the “Despacito” arrangement for just himself and a few friends, Kelvin was excited for the opportunity to work with the entire symphony.
“I’m not a genius composer or anything. This is just something that I did by ear, I guess,” he said.
“The original idea was to have a group of friends of mine perform it as a recital or something, so I started to arrange it for a few instruments. When our teacher, Mr. Cain, came up to me and proposed the idea of writing it for the whole symphony, I did not take a second to hesitate, and I took the offer. I had the entire symphony of instruments to use, and I felt that I wasn’t constricted, and I could be more original. So every day, I worked on it.”
After winter break, Kelvin started to feel the pressure of writing his unique version of “Despacito” for the orchestra, while also trying to balance his other activities like track and field, and the Science Olympiad.
“It did become a little more difficult after winter break ended, because I was doing a lot of extra activities, so I didn’t have time to work on the music, and I am definitely not the best at music and harmonies,” said Kelvin, adding that “The hardest part of composition was creating unique elements and parts of the song, so that it isn’t just a duplicate of the original music it’s based on.”
After being blown away by Kelvin’s work on the “Despacito” arrangement, Cain offered him the opportunity to perform the piece live with the Creekside Symphony Orchestra, serving as the symphony’s conductor, an often-intimidating role for the inexperienced, as the conductor keeps the symphony on time and playing together during the performance. “(Conducting) takes many years to master or even to be proficient at, so when I introduced the idea to Kelvin he was up for it, which is great (because) lots of people would be scared to do that,” said Cain.
After the performance Kelvin heard roars of approval from the crowd, and although he does not plan to pursue music as a career, he does plan to continue playing his violin next year at Patterson High School.
“I had no idea it would be like that, honestly though, it was really refreshing to hear that, it was really amazing and the orchestra did a great job,” said Kelvin. “I’m gonna continue music throughout my high school years. I don’t plan on making it my career, but I plan on continuing to play the violin throughout my life,” said Kelvin.
The crowd absolutely loved the performance, and Cain felt inspired by it all.
“The crowd went nuts at the concert. It’s a regular middle school concert and you get your normal claps, but when I introduced him, and he finished, everyone was in uproars. It was great; it was really inspiring to see a student get that sort of recognition for the work he did from the students and his peers in the community,” said Cain, adding that, “It was really, really exciting as an educator to see him expand his own knowledge outside of his own instrument and experiment with all in the orchestra,” Cain said.