A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle


This is a re-imagined version of a blog post from a few years ago. Hope you like it! – M

I Had A Paint Box

February 5th, 2014
The Paint-Box

I had a paint-box
Each color glowing with delight;
I had a paint-box with colors
Warm and cool and bright.
I had no red for wounds and blood,
I had no black for an orphaned child,
I had no white for the face of the dead.
I had no yellow for the burning sands.
I had orange for joy and life,
I had green for buds and blooms,
I had blue for clear bright skies.
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down and painted

– Tali Shurek, Age 13, Beersheba

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of conducting the 303 Choir from Arvada. They’re a non-auditioned group of young people who spend the majority of their time together learning music in the style of their culture, that is rap and hip-hop. All with a tie to the Denver area. Hence, the name.

This is their third season since the group was founded by my friend and colleague from the Colorado Children’s Chorale, Maestro Travis Branam. And this year Travis decided that it was time for them to be exposed to a set of more traditional pieces of choral music. But how to tie traditional choral music to the 303?

This is how I came to be part of the 303 Choir.

Years ago I lived in Omaha where I sang with the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, conducted by #RandallStroope. Randall’s family and mine became friends through that and other musical organizations in Omaha. As our friendship developed I came to understand that Randall had spent quite a bit of time in the Denver area. In fact, he ultimately earned his Master’s Degree from C.U. in Boulder.

As way led on to way, I moved to Colorado. Now more than two decades later I work with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Travis had organized 303 Choir as an affiliate of CCC, so I was well aware of how they were thriving. It was fun to hear Travis talk about their growth and his vision for expanding their musical world. He had brought them to the point where they needed some choral repertoire with a 303 connection. And Randall had become an internationally known composer.

Was there an opportunity here?

It was Travis’s idea to look into the Stroope connection. We started digging, hoping we might find three of his compositions that would be suitable to this choir. They would need to be accessible to singers who, though entirely enthusiastic, hadn’t had much formal training. And sure enough, that’s what we found. We decided to program Randall’s settings of Robert Frost’s “The Pasture,” Tali Shurek’s “The Paint Box,” and “The Inscription Of Hope,” from the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, circa WWII.

Now, here’s something really cool about 303 Choir. Travis makes it a point to connect the choir with the artists whose music they are singing. He sets up regular workshops and invites in the performers. And they come. And the kids learn.

So how to get Randall together with the choir? He’s a full-time professor living in Oklahoma, and he travels almost weekly to musical events all over the country. Having him attend rehearsals was a low-probability outcome. So we went for the next best thing. Skype. Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection…

In Part 2 I’ll tell you about what happened when Randall came on the screen. Thanks for reading so far.


Link to Mark’s book: The Symphony of Your Life


Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!

2 thoughts on “I Had A Paint Box – Redux, Part 1

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