Sunday, July 26, 2015
Introducing the Pentucket Music Conservatory!
See the following Boston Globe articles:
What is the Pentucket Music Conservatory?
This is an innovation school focused on the music education we provide for Pentucket students in grades 7-12. Over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, a committee made up of faculty, administration, a school committee member, parents, and a student representative dedicated their time to answer the following two initiatives:
1. Create career pathways for music
2. Expand the music education opportunities for students not in our traditional band/chorus/orchestra ensembles
The first step of the committee was to develop a mission statement, vision statement, and prospectus. A large amount of work went into researching what is available for music curriculum across the country and even outside of the United States. From there the group made an official plan which went to school committee for final approval. The final plan is linked here.
In spirit of the definition of an innovation school, the faculty has autonomy in curriculum, scheduling, and budgets. The truth is that it is a group effort between the faculty, an amazing administration and talented guidance department.
Enhancements for the 2015-2016 School Year:
1. New Musicianship I and II Courses
Students can apply to have a period or two dedicated to practicing their instruments/voice in preparation for private lessons, district auditions, and college auditions. An added bonus is that all the students in this course will take an online music theory course through the Eastman School of Music. Scheduling-wise, students can utilize this opportunity in periods which best fits into their schedules. Students will work on their overall musicianship which is outlined in our new tiered band karate system (solos, scales, sight-reading, active listening, ear training and composing).
2. New Percussion Technique Class
The school district has a rich history of a percussion ensemble program meeting after school. An issue with many concert bands is creating an engaging environment for the percussionists as their parts are too simple. As a result, we will be fostering an idea pioneered at Westford Academy and Chelmsford High School but with a Pentucket twist. All percussionists will be enrolled in a full-year percussion class instead of concert band and the after-school percussion ensembles. We will work on technique, percussion ensemble literature, and concert band literature. This will also be true for the middle school percussionists who will meet in the high school band room during a separate period and will be able to utilize our percussion instruments. We will have in-school field trips planned to combine the percussionists with the band and orchestra before the concerts. Now the percussionists will be challenged and our wind players will have even more attention given to them during band class.
3. Transformation of Middle and High School Ensemble Experiences
This past school year our middle school chorus, band and orchestra met everyday for a full block which was wonderful. When students meet that often and have good practice habits, they will sound fantastic. This equals out to a positive overall experience and therefore better retention within the ensemble and overall program. We are ready to take this a step further for the coming school year. Firstly, our incoming 7th grade wind players will be meeting with one of our band directors for a full month separate from our 8th graders. In a fun "boot camp" style, the director will catch those students up to speed to the 8th graders. The 8th graders will be meeting with the high school band during this time and will focus on our warm-up routine and fun literature we play for the football games. We will also be working on two combined concert band pieces for the upcoming winter concert.
An exciting enhancement will be our new chamber ensemble days. Every Thursday and Friday will feature grades 7-12 split into flute choir, clarinet choir, saxophone choir, full-brass choir, and rock band (for our guitar, bass, and piano students as they are people too)!
We started doing this in the late spring semester and it proved to be worthwhile. One of our students had a piece accepted into the Massachusetts Music Educators All-State Composition Festival. This same piece was then performed at the All-State Conference during the concert hour by our advanced high school percussion ensemble. We have seen that when given the tools for composition, our students will soar. This is in big part thanks to Noteflight which has really helped make the process simple and organized.
5. Pentucket Radio
Two of our students came up with an idea to get our non-traditional ensemble students involved with our program and highlight their accomplishments from outside the school. It turns out a lot of our students (secretly) take private lessons on guitar, bass, and drum-set at local studios which then combine to create rock bands. I was really unaware of this trend until our innovation committee found it in their research. We put up an announcement on the intercom two weeks before school ended proclaiming a new student-generated radio station. We ended up with 15 interested students who were able to get everything up and running in just one week (www.prhsradio.weebly.com). Most impressive, the majority of people involved were our non-ensemble students. The station has a mix of music you hear on the radio through streaming audio, student-generated music, jingles and podcasts. We will be collaborating with the school newspaper and journalism program next year for stories and will even be conducting live broadcasting from sporting events. This will truly transform how music is perceived at Pentucket Regional High School.
6. Rock Band Clinics
The school has offered a battle of the bands competition in the past. The problem was that it did not match the experience of our ensemble festivals. The students traditionally performed and then were ranked. There was no educational opportunities assigned to the event. For the coming year, we plan on bringing in professionals in the field to conduct workshops with each band based on a pre-contest performance. The music will also be featured on the school radio station. We will get local businesses involved for prizes and admission at the door will go towards building up our radio station located in the former school store.
7. Music is Everywhere: New Cross-Curricular Opportunities
Instead of having students complete projects and papers based on multiple subjects, students can select to use their background from the music innovation school in their non-musical courses. For example, a new course offered this past year was Topics in Literature, an upper-level English elective. Here students created their own path of research for the semester approved by the teacher. The students read multiple books about one subject and wrote formal papers and blog entries about it. The end result was a more meaningful experience for the student as he/she had autonomy over the content. As one student stated reflecting on her experience with the various offerings this year, "this seemed to be the first year of schooling in which all my classes actually complemented each other."
Plans for the future:
We want to increase the amount of electives by exploring blended learning environments. Over the course of the next year we will be developing online electives for music composition, sound recording, music business, music therapy, music education, loop composing, dj skills, and American popular music. Students would take a course in a period best available for them and then would be required to meet as a class during the school day with the instructor once every few weeks. We also want to start a new course focused on song writing and incorporating guitar, bass, piano and drum-set.
Lastly, we plan to create a relationship with the local colleges so that students can take music theory, ear training, and music history sequences for early-college credit. Yes, this means actually leaving the high school campus and traveling to other schools during and after the traditional school day.
Pentucket created a new summer session of traditional and innovate courses. This enhances the amount of overall courses a student can take and helps free up their schedule so they can fit their autonomous education. This result is also achieved by offering early-high school credited courses to middle school students. It is quite an exceptional model.
In the end this is going to be a very special opportunity for Pentucket. We hope other music programs will follow our lead as we transition to provide a more autonomous and meaningful musical experiences for ALL of our students.