Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mohawk Music Students at Annapolis Music Festival – April 2016

The Mohawk High School Music Department participated in the Annapolis Music Festival from April 7-10.  Students in the High School Music Department travel to perform in regional music festivals as an essential part of their study of music.  This festival was produced by Worldstrides OnStage, a student travel company which coordinates high quality music festivals in major American cities.  Schools from all over the country came to Annapolis to perform, receive critical feedback and coaching, and to attend concerts and events in the Washington D.C. area.   
Mohawk’s Select Chorus and Concert Chorus each won Silver Awards, and Concert Band received a Bronze Award.  Additionally, Mohawk junior Adam Hallenbeck, a soloist in Select Chorus, won the prestigious Maestro Award for outstanding musicianship.  

Opportunities to travel and participate in music festivals have become a significant part of the student experience in the Mohawk Music Department.  “These field trips are extremely valuable in terms of curriculum and assessment and have tremendous impacts on student learning,” says Halligan.  “When our music students take a field trip to a music festival, they partake in a rich learning experience that connects to the national standards for music education.  This learning experience adds value to the learning that takes place in the classroom before and after the trip.”  

Performances were assessed by professional adjudicators including Dr. Aaron Smith, Director of Musical Activities and Chairman of Music at the U.S. Naval Academy, Dr. Bryce Hayes of James Madison University, and other notable music educators.  Directly after each performance, students received an enlightening 30-minute coaching by an adjudicator on stage.  “I enjoyed hearing how much our sound changed after the short time with one of the adjudicators,” said freshman Andy Robertson.  “The Naval Academy judge for Select Chorus was so articulate; he gave us an analogy about waves and the ocean and we sounded better than I’ve ever heard us,” said senior Zach Arfa.  

The performances were recorded with verbal commentary by the adjudicators, and Halligan has begun to review these recordings in the classroom with his students.  “This process of performance and reflection is at the heart of what we do in the music program,” says Halligan.  

Apart from performances, students took part in many additional activities.  Students attended a brilliant performance by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.  Sophomore Matthew Taylor said, “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the National Symphony Orchestra.  The symphony was simply breathtaking.”   Following a visiting to the Smithsonian Museums, students visited the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel, where concert organist Monte Maxwell gave an impressive demonstration of the power of the building’s historic organ, the largest draw knob organ console in the world (the instrument includes 522 draw knobs, 5 manuals, and 15,688 pipes).  Students also heard a powerful performance in the Chapel by the U.S. Naval Academy Women’s Glee Club.  Prior to the concert, students informally performed a song in the Navy Chapel.
Students Reflect on their Experience
Following the trip, students have had opportunities in the classroom to reflect on their experience.  Senior Erin Townsley described her experience this way: “As always, the music trip was fun and educational.  This year feels like the most beneficial to me, and I feel like I really learned a lot of new musical techniques to help me further my musicianship.”  This appreciation for the new musical skills and knowledge gained on the trip was echoed by junior Sara Paige: “Trips like this are amazing opportunities to learn new vocal exercises, techniques, and sounds that you’ll use your entire life.  This trip in general has made me a more professional vocalist.”  

Reflecting on the trip, students also commented on their personal growth.  “I learned that I have more potential than I realized with singing,” said freshman Myracle Renaud.  Senior Kylee Cole said, “Being on this trip allowed me to grow as a performer and a person.”  Sophomore Sadie Kudlay wrote, “If there is one thing this trip has taught me, it’s to just express yourself and have fun with whatever you do.  Music has definitely brought people together and on this trip we got to show how well we are as a school and as a music family.” 

After the four intense days of traveling together and performing together, many students expressed strong feelings of belonging.  Sophomore Anna Morin put it succinctly: “When we’re at school, we feel like a community, but on this trip we felt like a family.”  

For seniors, this was their last high school music trip.  Senior Lexxey Boron Smith reflected on the trip and her high school music experience with appreciation: “I can’t express how beautiful and unique this experience was.  From the music we made together, to the long hours of deep talks and the adventures we shared, I can’t express how much the people in this department have changed my life, and I thank them all.”  Isaac Paige wrote, “The music trip was truly incredible.  The limits that I thought we couldn’t get to were reached with the assistance of the adjudicators.  This trip made me realize why I enjoy singing, and that I should have joined the music department so much earlier, because this experience was the best out of my entire high school experience yet.”  Eli Wickland-Shearer said, “As a senior and a returning person on these trips, I can say that these experiences are the kinds that inspire students and stay with them forever.” 

No One Turned Away for Lack of Funds
“The goal for this year’s trip was to include as many students as possible, and for students to be able to participate regardless of their families’ ability to pay,” said Halligan.  In order to ensure that every interested, eligible student could participate, stakeholders combined their efforts to reduce the cost to families and provide scholarships to those who needed them.  

The Mohawk Trail Regional School District made a major financial contribution to defray the cost of transportation.   The Mohawk Music Association and the Mary Lyon Foundation also provided generous support.  Students participated in fundraisers and obtained sponsorships from dozens of local businesses.  Local Cultural Councils, the Shelburne Grange, the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club, the Charlemont Senior Center, and anonymous donors also made significant contributions.  “Thanks to this remarkable and heartening support,” says Halligan, “one hundred percent of our interested and eligible students were able to participate in the trip.”  

This program is supported in part by grants from the Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont/Hawley, Colrain, Cummington,  Heath, Plainfield, Rowe, and Shelburne Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
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For photos and video from the trip, visit here on the MMA website.