When we posted our last reflection, in November, our Studio to Schools committee was nearing its first milestone: holiday concert season. In the month of December, our teachers and students went through a series of “firsts”: the first concert for our new sixth grade band, the first holiday performance for the revived K-5 music program, and the debut of the new sound and light system at Taft 7-12. In between these school performances, we wedged an ambitious cross-media outreach program that combined visual art with classical music and environmental education. In short, we were all very busy, but we left “the season” with a great deal of satisfaction.
THE CHANGES AFOOT, IN GREATER DETAIL
* Sixth-grade band
The introduction and support of sixth grade band has been one of the central goals of our committee. We saw that, thanks to the elimination of music teachers and programs at the elementary school level, our students weren’t experiencing organized music education until the 7th grade. Re-introducing band at an earlier age would allow for a more advanced understanding of music performance and theory in older students, we reasoned.
Last fall, we spent nearly $6,000 in instruments, and $1,300 for sheet music and books, to support this new band. The school district covered the bus time and staff to bring the sixth graders from Oceanlake Elementary School to the Taft 7-12 band room, where they met the sixth graders from Taft Elementary (within walking distance). They practice together several days a week, and on Dec. 11 had their first performance — it was awesome. This program will continue as it is, for the remainder of this year. There’s was a story about it in the Lincoln City News Guard.
Next steps: We will continue to support this project, and make plans for 2015-16. Since the start of this project last spring, district officials have decided to separate Lincoln City’s two elementary schools by grade rather than geography. Next year, all the sixth graders will take classes at Taft Elementary, so that sixth grade band will be much easier to accomplish.
* Auditorium upgrade
To date, our committee has spent $11,500 toward new equipment for the performance venue in the Commons of Taft 7-12. This is a large, brightly-lit space in the center of the school, fed by many doors and hallways, which also serves as the lunchroom and after-school hangout. It has a stage, but until this year it was just a large hole, elevated by a few steps, illuminated and painted in the same beige as the rest of the Commons. When the bands played, their sounds were lost in the bad acoustics, and their faces were hard to see under the florescent lights. There was no feeling of arrival and expectation, as one should feel when entering a theatre or concert hall, and the audiences acted accordingly. Band concert audiences were notoriously noisy and even disrespectful, entering and exiting during the music, and having conversations within earshot of the crowd.
Our goal was to change this culture, by changing the venue and the expectations of the events held there. If the band concert feels more important, the students will be more likely to practice and prepare, and their families may be more supportive, validating the experience and inspiring the student to put forth further effort.
Band instructor Andy Hordichok designed and installed theatrical lights and sound, all of which can be controlled from more traditional boards or through a pre-programmed laptop, all on a mobile cart. These were employed during the December concerts of the Beginning, Advanced, Symphonic and Jazz Bands, and the Chamber and Ensemble Choirs. Principal Majalise Tolan (also a member of the S2S Committee) made this video.
Since then, one more improvement has been made: the interior of the stage area has been painted black. This was accomplished with donated paint and labor, and it looks terrific. We’ll post again after the spring concerts, and you can see the difference.
Next steps: Andy will be training the students and parent volunteers to run the system, and will be using it to present spring concerts (March 12 and 19) as well as the student musical, “Aladdin” in May.
Music integration K-5
* This year, both of our elementary schools had a 1/2 FTE teaching position that could be used for an “extra,” like PE, art or music. Together, the principals chose music, and decided that this new teacher would spend one semester full time in each school. They hired an inspiring young teacher named Lindsay Fuson, and she just finished her first term at Taft Elementary. The fourth graders performed for friends and family on Dec. 17, followed by the second graders on Jan. 21 and the thirds on Jan. 22.
Next steps: Now that she’s teaching at Oceanlake Elementary, Lindsay plans to use the same curriculum, including a musical called “Compose Yourself,” a piece called “Go Fish,” and a performance loosely based on “Stomp.”
* Our first outreach concert took place on Dec. 17. It was called “Sound of Nature, Sound of Art,” and it was inspired by the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, just north of Lincoln City. Jonathan Dubay, a musician whose family has deep ties to Cascade Head, created a complete experience: a chamber quartet playing songs inspired by land, sea and gesture, while artists created art in real time, inspired by the music.
The school outreach took place in the morning, at Taft 7-12. Jonathan first spoke to the crowd of about 200, showing slides of his own artwork of flora and fauna at Cascade Head, and played scores of music while showing slides of the sheet music, to demonstrate the similarities and the shared concepts of line and rhythm. Then, his quartet played Faure and Vivaldi while students from the art class worked on a large group project.
With help from an environmental educator, the art students had created a 3-D topographical map of Cascade Head using layers of plywood, then covered it with large sheets of paper. During the concert, they applied paint and pencil to the paper, tracing the shape of the land into what looked like rivers, valleys, hills and cliffs. The students in the audience watched the art being made, while they listened to the music.
At the public concert, in the evening at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, the student project was repeated, using pigments made from natural sources. During the same program, another artist painted an acrylic Cascade Head landscape, and a multi-media artist created a 12-foot long watercolor response to Bryan Johanson’s modern composition, “The Wave Sings Because it is Moving.” It was attended by 100 people, and included lots of discussion and interaction between the student artists and the audience.
Next steps: The S2S committee is continuing the outreach with Ghanaian drummer Okaijda Ofroso, visiting Oceanlake Elementary during their drumming unit on April 3. We will also be funding a spring production of “Click, Clack, Moo!” at the cultural center on May 15. Nearly all the K-2 classes at both schools (425 kids or so) on May 15.
We feel as if we have accomplished a great deal in the first six months of our Studio to Schools project. What have we learned, and when will we know we are making measurable progress? More in the next Reflection.