Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Music at ACDS

If one is looking for innovative practices at ACDS, just take a walk down the first floor hallway to the music room. Mr. Andrew Taylor, our music teacher, is one cutting edge educator who has students and parents abuzz about his classroom and instrumental programs.

The following is an overview of the music program provided by Mr. Taylor.

The music program is based on three pillars: Creation, Rehearsal, Performance. These contexts are the basis for learning as many ethnomusicological transmission methods as possible in the early childhood program, while the later elementary years use a gradual refining of each student's style through the music-theory areas of interaction - rhythm, harmony & melody. Improvisation is used as a fundamental skill in both initial creation of material which is then structured through rehearsal into composed pieces, and also as a fundamental expressive part within the performance of the developed works. Composed pieces are notated through as wide a variety of notation traditions and techniques as possible, including staff notation, graphic scores, tabs, chord signs, continuo, whatever is possible to use within the context of what the student has started creating. Middle school students are trained in the use of instruments which are widely used in contemporary local culture - drums, bass & guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and flute. These bands can play rock, jazz, and concert music, once again using as many notation techniques as possible. They rehearse more regularly and are capable of developing prototype professional concerts with full 45 minute sets and recorded collections.

The sequence in each year, and in each project, starts with skill tuition on instruments, using improvisation and basic notation forms. Then, using simple songs which are well-known within the students' culture, structure and technique are modeled and deconstructed for analysis. Students are then asked to choose or create forms and fill them with new material drawn from their improvisations. These works are rehearsed, and during this process students adapt their initial creation to the realities of the ability levels of other students in their band. The performance provides the essential connection with community that style needs for its own development, and a context for assessment by both performer and audience.

This program relies heavily on constant playing and notating, and the uncertain progress of creating and structuring works which students will be responsible for in front of their peers and community. We have less emphasis on planned delivery of music history lessons which don't involve playing. Instead, as students gain skill in the process of making and delivering music, their respect for those who have already established successful styles grows strong, and then the students inquiry naturally arises out of their desire to learn about how their own work fits into the fabric of musical history and development.

-Andrew Taylor

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