“Hip Hop Harmony,” A Lesson in Adapting Musical Experiences for Young Children

“Hip Hop Harmony,” A Lesson in Adapting Musical Experiences for Young Children
Jun 11, 2024

Children’s Performer Fyütch Reflects on His Experience Developing a New Commission for Wolf Trap

This spring, Wolf Trap tapped Grammy-nominated children’s performer and social justice artist Harold “Fyütch” Simmons to create an original commission for Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. Collaborating with Wolf Trap’s education team, Fyütch developed a 45-minute performance work titled “Hip Hop Harmony” that included three new compositions that he debuted on stage at Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods for Wolf Trap’s annual field trip program.

The experience was unique for Fyütch because it challenged him to rethink his creative process and adapt his music and performance for children younger than his traditional audience.

“I teamed up with Wolf Trap to create three songs for children aged 2-7,” said Fyütch. “Most of my music veers a little older, so I was excited to collaborate with Wolf Trap’s education team and teaching artists to ensure that I was focusing on topics and using lyrics that were developmentally appropriate for a younger age group.”

Early in the process, Fyütch, who also works as a teaching artist in New York when he is not performing on stage, met with staff from Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and early childhood specialists to discuss his song concepts.

“They listened to my ideas and suggested new ones, but I appreciated that they trusted me as the artist to make the final call,” said Fyütch. “I sent them my lyrics as I was writing them, which was a little uncomfortable so early into the creative process, but I found their feedback to be incredibly helpful.”

Hip Hop Harmony

Wolf Trap also paired Fyütch with two of its Master Teaching Artists, Terlene “Ms. T” Terry-Todd, and Devin “Uncle Devin” Walker, who is also a children’s performer. Both teaching artists offered guidance on how Fyütch could stage his performance and encourage interaction from the audience.

“They helped me build a new live show to tie in the themes of the music together, along with transitions between the songs and learning objectives to make sure the messaging is clear to the audience,” Fyütch said. “Uncle Devin gave me some great ideas on how to model harmony and melody to the audience and handle transitions between songs; Ms. T reminded me to keep my gestures and mannerisms large enough for the children to pick up on.”

Fyütch, who grew up as a fan of multiple music genres, chose to ground his performance in Hip Hop, because of its ability to communicate messages to audiences of varied age groups and backgrounds.

“It’s a familiar vehicle to tell stories, speak truth, relate to others, and have fun,” he said. “I fell in love with Hip Hop as a kid, so for me, it’s a deeply personal way to express myself, and it has an undeniable youthful energy that speaks to kids and encourages movement.”

Fyütch plans to release the songs he developed for “Hip Hop Harmony” to the public via his upcoming album and add them to his live repertoire. The experience has also sparked ideas for future content.

“I feel very confident in marketing versions of my live show to different age groups now,” said Fyütch. “I want to offer venues clear, separate performances for young children, older children, and all ages.” 

Wolf Trap and Fyütch invited educators, parents, and children to step further into the music with an accompanying handout to “Hip Hop Harmony” which offers activities, discussion ideas, and resources. For more information on the artist, visit fyutch.com.