The Soundtrack of Success: Embracing the Power of Music Education For All

Advanced Orchestra doing their in person group audition.
Advanced Orchestra doing their in person group audition.
Becky Mignot

Summer is less than 3 months away with thoughts of sun, sand, and the schedule for the upcoming school year. The scheduling requests have to be submitted in February — months before the next school year. These requests allow students to pick through courses and electives to hopefully build a schedule they will enjoy. 

When going to schedule for music classes, students noticed some changes— classes that weren’t audition-based before now had to be auditioned for. Higher level music classes that people already need to have the experience to audition for can be great, but only if there is a lower level class that allows people with the passion— but maybe not the talent— to learn through the class. 

Students currently enrolled in music classes of the higher level like advanced orchestra express their opinions on the auditions. 

“I think it is good to have groups that you have to audition for that are harder like advanced strings and master singers as long as there’s still groups that you don’t have to audition for,” junior Stella Colocino said.

Colocino currently plays first violin in the schools advanced orchestra. 

 “I know there is a regular choir and I think they’re going to bring back a symphonic orchestra. Easier classes like that where you just want to learn and do it for fun even if you aren’t amazingly talented at it. So I think it’s fine to have classes where you already have to be good and know a lot of stuff as long as there is the opportunity to learn in a different class that might be a little easier,” Colocino said.

Advanced classes of all types including music place more emphasis on individual work or time spent at home in the class, as discussed in the College Board criteria for an advanced class.  Just like with other advanced classes, students are expected to perform at a higher level and are given a weighted credit to recognize the extra effort being put in. That means it is crucial for all students in that class to have the drive to perform on a higher level. If not all students have the same passion or enthusiasm, it can put a damper on the class for the rest. 

“It’s really important for music to be accessible to anyone at any level. You should be able to do it without having the pressures of an intense ensemble.” Genavieve Clayton said. She currently plays cello in advanced orchestra as well as being a part of master singer. “In the advanced groups you  want to do really good work and it wouldn’t be fun for you or the other people if you’re not on the same level. So I think it’s really important to have multiple levels for music classes.”

After not having to audition for advanced music classes for years, it was a change suddenly having to do it in the weeks before course requests were due.

“It made me question it a little bit because it’s another thing I would have to make time for but the audition for advanced strings was really chill you just sent in a video and [James] Rob[inson] is very chill about it so the in person audition was as a group  whereas for other groups I feel like it would be an individual audition and I know that a lot of my friends were really stressed out about that,” Colocino said.

Having to audition for these classes shows the standards for the classes have changed and that they are going to be more difficult, which can be stressful. However, that is why there are options for both standard and advanced music classes. Students can have the joys of performing without as much of the pressure, or they can test their talents and opt for the advanced option. 

“It was kind of a change in terms of the process, but it was needed because it is an advanced ensemble and I feel like for the people who are getting the weighted credit I feel like you should have to audition,” Clayton said.

With the sudden level change of certain classes, it made students wonder what caused the abrupt switch.

“I know that Mr. Clayton and administration have been wanting to have advanced strings be more like master singers and other advanced ensembles,” Colocino said. “So I think it’s partially the administration and partially because you are supposed to audition for advanced strings. Also having a new teacher they’re probably going to have new standards  and I think it’s also to get you ready for that and with a new teacher it will probably be more rigorous and it’s been very laid back with Rob.”

In preparations for the new staff, many students had questions about who these people are. The amount of classes the (now) orchestra teacher has is one that all teachers may not be able to handle. 

“I feel like Rob is a special case where he can do guitar and rock ensemble and orchestra. I do think they should hire someone separate for guitar and maybe have them do guitar and rock ensemble. But I feel like orchestra is very different from guitar and rock ensemble,” Colocino said. “Especially advanced rock ensembles, so they should have someone who really knows what they are doing, not just an orchestra conductor who they just throw at the class. So I do think it’s better to have teachers who specialize in the classes they are teaching, especially for the advanced ones.”

Students participating in the more modern music classes like rock ensemble are hoping for a teacher that helps them stay motivated while helping them hone their skills. 

“I want a teacher that pushes me to get better but also keeps the class enjoyable. Even though I’m not in the advanced option I still want everyone to try their best and have passion for the music and I want the teacher to encourage that,” junior Claire Heaney said.

Whether advanced or regular, music classes can be a great too for beginners and advanced performers alike. In a study presented in an article from Colburn College, it is shown that not only can music classes be a fun passion, but can also increase a student’s test scores and academic ability. The drive, motivation, and patience needed for music can carry over into other areas of a student’s academic career, helping them to stay motivated to earn higher marks. 

Creativity, passion, and communication are all skills that can be learned from taking a music class, which is why it is vital for there to be accessible music classes for those who aren’t as far along in their music journeys, as well as advanced classes for those who are driven for a higher education in music.

Music is something that all students should be able to have the opportunity to participate in.  Luckily, State High is starting to offer both of those choices in most music programs next year, which is a great step in making music classes more accessible to both those who want to grow their skills and new musicians who want to explore the many options. 

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