Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Music Hath Charms

A look back at the early days of music education in one of our local schools as the month of March (Music In Our Schools Month) comes to an end. Also, a review of the current music classes available to students in the Mohawk District schools.

From the book titled History and Tradition of Shelburne Massachusetts, published in 1958, comes this article titled "Music Hath Charms."

Music instruction is first mentioned in a school report in 1845. It was 43 years later in 1888 that the first music teacher was employed by the district to teach singing, in part to "soften and subdue the harsh and unpleasant feelings which may, and often do, arise in the breasts of children."

What is the current status of music education in the Mohawk District schools?

Elementary Schools
Students in grades K-6 have a weekly music class. These music classes have become much more than singing, as instruction is now guided by the national standards. Students in grade 3 also take recorder lessons, and 4-6 graders are able to choose to take a band instrument as well. Chorus is also offered in most of the elementary schools for students in grade 4-6, again by choice. Every spring the Chorus and Band students fill Mohawk's auditorium with an enthusiastic audience of family and friends for their performance at Kids in Concert.

Middle School
Band and Chorus are offered as an elective for all Middle School students (grades 7-8), led by Middle School Music Director Gina Glover. Until recently this was the only offering for music for a middle school student, but now Music Director Scott Halligan is offering a Percussion Laboratory (which is a non-traditional percussion, composition, and improvisation class inspired by "STOMP".) It's in the 7th grade Related Arts rotation, meaning all 7th graders have the class. It's an elective for 8th Graders. The Middle School Band and Chorus has several public performances every year, including the Winter Concert, Spring Concert, Memorial Day Parade (Band), Springfield Indians hockey game (Chorus), Boston Statehouse (not this year due to scheduling conflicts). They also compete at the Music in the Parks Festival at Six Flags New England.
The Middle School Chorus sang "God Bless America" to a crowd of 5528 hockey fans before the start of the Springfield Falcons 20th season home opener in October 2013

High School
Music classes are all electives (no required classes for graduation), with the following options taught by Music Director Scott Halligan listed in the High School Catalog 2013-2014:
  • String Orchestra (3 credits; this course meets every other day for a semester)
  • Rock Band/Guitar (3 credits; this course meets every other day)
  • Concert Band (6 credits; this course meets every other day for the year)
  • Concert Chorus (6 credits; every other day for the full year)
  • Select Chorus (6 credits; every other day for the full year)
  • Music Theory/Piano Lab (3 credits; this course meets every other day)
  • Electronic Music (3 credits; this course meets every other day)
  • Senior Capstone Seminar (6 credits; one semester in the fall) A music-based project is an option for a student to study.
  • Jazz Band may be offered in the Fall of 2014.
The High School music ensembles have a busy schedule of performances, field trips and workshops throughout the school year as seen here.
Mohawk Select Chorus at Keene State College in October, 2013.