Music has been a part of my life since I can remember; I began playing the piano at age six, the trumpet at age ten, and the euphonium at fourteen. I was fascinated by the effect music had on me: it calmed me and excited me at the same time; it was a means to express myself that I had never explored.
We wanted to bring some of the magic of music to the chimpanzees – the excitement of sitting in an orchestra pit right before the concert begins, the feeling of awe a child has when he or she sees a musical instrument for the first time, the elegance that surrounds a night at the symphony.
The first step toward creating our “Night at the Symphony” at CHCI was selecting elegant clothes that the chimps could nest with during this special day. My mother had purchased glittery top hats for Dar and Loulis, and we selected two beautiful gowns from the enrichment room for Washoe and Tatu. These were set out on the tire in the East room, with artificial roses around them to simulate those thrown on stage by patrons at the symphony beckoning an encore.
Instruments came next, designed especially for the chimpanzees to interact with! Hallie and I constructed a harp out of cardboard and yarn: the frame was cardboard and the yarn (complete with dried apples tied in) formed the strings! This was put on the wall for the chimpanzees to discover during their morning forage. My father sent some PVC pipe from his workshop and we filled them with beaded necklaces (and a few slices of fresh oranges) to create shakers. To finish off the decorations and preparation, black and white streamers were tied all around the East room and music notes cut out of cardboard were taped all over the walls, wooden platform, and shaky tree!
The chimpanzees seemed to enjoy this day of enrichment thoroughly! Dar and Loulis headed straight for the harp with the dried apples and picked out each one, while Washoe and Tatu set to opening the shakers with the oranges inside. A few boxes of colored water were set around as well for added enrichment and Tatu managed to gather all of them for herself!
Hallie and I had so much fun bringing a magical “Night at the Symphony” to Washoe’s family – judging by the way Washoe and Tatu manipulated those shakers, we just might have some musicians on our hands!