Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Personalizing the Performance Environment

This week, music teacher Ben Wright shares his experience preparing Greenwood's senior music class for the ultimate in real-world music experience: performing in a pit band.

The Junior school musical is something to look forward to each fall term. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the event, as the school shifts its focus from the dreary darkening autumn months to bright lights, costumes and the sounds of musical theatre. For the senior music class, the chance to perform as the pit orchestra for these productions provides a perfect personalized learning opportunity.

SeniorBandPhotoThe senior music class learns upwards of 20 pieces to accompany the young singers, and also performs transition music to distract the audience during set changes. It’s a daunting task to proficiently perform so many pieces - one that requires each student to be working at their personal best.

To ensure success as an ensemble, students are assessed on their performance skills at the start of the term, and their results on these initial evaluations determine the difficulty of their first pieces. I repeat these short performance assessments multiple times throughout the term and adjust the level of difficulty to match the student’s progress. 

As the teacher, I write and arrange the music for the production. This means that as the term unfolds and I see students progress, I can push those who require enrichment by writing more difficult performance pieces, and accommodate students who aren’t progressing quite as quickly. By matching the pieces to work with the ensemble, we can ensure that an advanced tuba player is not playing whole notes for hours, and a beginning flutist is not faced with strings of notes beyond his abilities.

All of the music written for the students is used in the musical. The music is written and arranged specifically for each student, so the parts are challenging but achievable. The performance in front of hundreds of audience members provides a very accountable performance environment. This is just one of the ways that Greenwood's Arts Department makes the arts personal for every student.

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