For the second semester of music this year, eighth grade students were given the opportunity to pick between band, orchestra, choir or digital music. In the past, students had split their time between an instrumental ensemble and the choir, similar to what other grades in the middle school do.
Ms. Carolyn Stock-Chapin, the middle and high school band teacher, said that the music teachers chose to make this change after looking at surveys taken from the grade and discussing it as a music team. She said, “We thought it would be a great opportunity for students to have more time to specialize in a certain area of interest and also to have a bridge to high school.”
Concerning how the new system was working, Ms. Stock said, “From a band perspective, it’s great. I’m very happy. We have a group identity and I feel we’re making great progress.”
Some students applied to be “doublers,” meaning that instead of choosing to be in just one instrumental ensemble or the choir ensemble, they would split their time between the two. “We were very careful about allowing doubling at all,” said Ms. Stock. “Students had to fill out a questionnaire and state their reasons for wanting to double, knowing that would mean double the amount of work and half the amount of time.”
Eighth grader Claire Heskett was chosen to be a doubler in her music classes. She said, “I like getting to choose our music class because it means that the people in class with me are passionate about what we’re learning.”
Most students chose not to double, but Heskett said, “I love both orchestra and choir, and I really enjoy both of the classes. This way, I don’t have to limit myself to just choir or orchestra, and I get to enjoy both.”
However, this decision came with responsibilities. “It’s very difficult to keep up with both [classes], because I will miss a class and I’ll come back and we’ll have a new piece or have worked on a measure that I haven’t practiced yet,” said Heskett.
In the face of this challenge, Heskett said she has to practice more at home for both classes in order to catch up and continue to improve. Overall, this change in the music department has been a success and has given students more choice and opportunity to explore the music they enjoy.