While their music making is top notch, we’re always impressed by what our young musicians get up to outside of the rehearsal room. Many are involved in various extracurricular activities and after-school clubs, other performing arts groups, sport teams, and volunteering. This month’s student feature highlights Kaiso Steel Orchestra member Adam Kipp and the impressive ways he gives back to the community. Adam was recently recognized with CYSO’s 2022 Albert Pick III award, given to a student who demonstrates a passionate commitment to service to their community. Read on to learn more about Adam’s musicianship and good works.
How did you get involved with CYSO?
My love for music started at an early age. As a preschooler, I loved to listen to and dance to kids’ versions of Mozart. At age 6, I started to take piano lessons at DePaul University Community Music. After we moved out of the city, I continued piano lessons with a private tutor, Dr. Kilburn. I have been playing piano for 11 continuous years and received awards from some local or international competitions. The piano has strengthened my passion for music.
While being a piano player and playing classical music most of my time, I realized that I also wanted to be part of an orchestra and enjoy various forms of music together with others. When I was 11 years old, I learned about the CYSO Steel Orchestra and decided to give it a try. I have been with the Steel Orchestra ever since.
What has it meant to you to be a member of CYSO?
I have been a member of CYSO Steel Orchestras for over 7 years. I started with Groove Steel Ensemble, progressed to Junior Steel Orchestra, and am now with the Kaiso Steel Orchestra. My experience with CYSO has been life changing. I have learned how to be an orchestral player and how to work closely with others in a harmonious way. I have gotten to know orchestra members from all over the city and from a variety of backgrounds. I have had many fun (although sometimes nerve-racking) memories of recital performances.
In 2020, I joined others from Kaiso to record a performance for the CYSO Virtual Gala. I was very impressed by the entire process and the final product. I realized that the pandemic couldn’t stop people’s pursuit of professional quality music production. The Gala raised over $360K, and I am happy and proud to be part of the effort. In 2021, we also played for tourists at Navy Pier and shared our passion for the instrument and music with people from all over the country/world. Being a member of CYSO has been one of my life’s most valuable components, and I will cherish this experience forever.
At CYSO, we incorporate service into the student experience by organizing education concerts for school groups. What has your experience been like performing Education Concerts with Steel?
Performing in education concerts for school groups has always been something that I look forward to, as I am always excited to share my passion for music and love for the steelpan with others, particularly with my peer students. Due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to perform in person in a live education concert in a few years, but we made a virtual education concert recording last year that showed to school groups. I gladly heard that the concert was enjoyed by many students. I hope I will be able to play in an in-person education concert soon.
Describe a volunteer experience that has been important to you and why.
At the onset of the pandemic, I noticed that masks were very difficult to come by. I decided to start a volunteer group, Protect Our Community Group (POCG), with the purpose of tracking down masks and getting them to hospitals, clinics, restaurants, and the elderly in our community. My friends Vijay Dasari and Julia Kipp soon joined this effort as co-founders of the organization.
Together we raised over $10,000 (including a $3,000 grant award from the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and Northwest Indiana Indian Medical Association) for the requisition and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE). We delivered over 12,000 pieces of PPE to 30+ hospitals, many senior citizens, and people in need across 30+ towns in the greater Chicago area and in northwest Indiana during the most difficult time of the pandemic. We also donated masks to India and China and provided funds to support India’s Oxygen supply project when that country suffered from an overwhelmingly high number of COVID-positive cases.
These activities resulted in a story about POCG in newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, and various recognitions and awards. This experience has been important to me because I realized that sometimes there just aren’t enough of a vital supply and you might have to be the one to bring it to those in need.
Do you find any connection between your community service work and being a performer?
The common and most rewarding connection between my community service work and being a performer is that both activities bring support and joy to others. It is a wonderful experience for me to see how my hard work can make other people’s lives just a little bit better.
Do you have an example of how you’ve seen that hard work—in music or service—help someone else?
My grandma is 87 years old and due to physical difficulties, has limited activities to enjoy. I always want to find ways to make her happy. Grandma loves music but did not know much about steelpan. Since I started with CYSO Steel Orchestras, I often explain to her how steelpan works, the origin of the instrument, and the types of music we play. I also invited her to our recitals whenever she was able to attend. Gradually, my grandma started to love to listen to steelpan music.
During the pandemic lockdown, she couldn’t see her friends and felt lonely. We would bring her to our home whenever we got a chance. During this time members of Kaiso got to bring their pans home to practice and I played steelpan for my Grandma during her visits. She was happy whenever she watched me playing the instrument. At our 2020 virtual Gala, she and my whole family watched our performance together. Grandma was very moved by what we played and burst into tears after she listened to the whole piece. I am happy that she and I share the same appreciation and love for the steelpan.
Is POCG still active?
Yes, we continue to provide support to the community whenever there’s a need. Since the above-mentioned PPE donations, we have also helped senior citizens find vaccination locations when vaccines were hard to get, assisted people to receive in-home COVID testing kits, and volunteered at other organizations’ events such as at an event aiming to raise awareness and promote the prevention of child suicide and drug abuse.
What are your plans and goals for the future?
I plan to pursue a career in science. My Grandma also says that music helps people develop talent in math. Music and math are my passions. I can see that no matter what I will do in the future, music will always be part of my life. I will continue to play piano and steelpan. I hope that in the future I will be able to teach more people to play the steelpan and help introduce this fun instrument to their life.