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Get down with Mozart

Watched by students in Monterrey, Mexico, and Chicago, and with classmates dancing and drumming out the beat on a gym mat, Alex Bourassa-Brown and Anthony Mrad performed their rap about Mozart's life to parents.

The refrain, "I know I canBe what I want to be" sums up the message world-renowned conductor and violinist Pinchas Zuckerman and his National Arts Centre Orchestra hope to impart to students in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

"Being a role model is important," Mr Zuckerman said. "I want to share what I do with them, because music makes you a better person as well as improving conceptual abilities, reading and maths."

During the Ottawa-based NACO's 16-day North American tour, more than 7,500 talented students will learn from his musicians in person and by video or broadband link. The first video conference on October 31 connected three groups of 18 - from a Monterrey orphanage, Chicago's Rachel Carson grade (primary) school, which has a large Hispanic population, and Ottawa's McMaster elementary school.

From Monterrey, Mr Zuckerman, conducted each group in both an instrumental and choral version of Mozart's Sonata in A before conducting the ensemble of 54, which he accompanied on violin.

"It was quite a challenge teaching my students how the timing of the sonata would work when it was being played in three different places, and there was a 10 second delay in the broadcast," said Helen Beauchamp, McMaster's music teacher.

McMaster principal Maryanne Cowan said music had helped to bridge cultures of the different groups. "To show what Mozart means, some painted a picture of Mozart as a magician, some danced and some performed a North American rap."

Sitting in a NACO rehearsal hall, Ottawa students watched their peers in Chicago perform a dance that depicted the night Mozart died. From Mexico they saw a traditional pi$ata dance.

As part of its ArtsAlive programme, Canada's National Arts Centre has prepared teaching materials, including a story about Mozart written by Roch Carrier, one of Canada's best-known story-writers, and other classroom activities.

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