On Monday, May 1, Park’s Grade 3 class braved drizzly weather on an unforgettable field trip to downtown Boston’s renowned New England Conservatory (NEC). The trip was an educational and enjoyable experience for the students, who were treated to a live, interactive performance by graduate and undergraduate NEC musicians. It was aptly timed as third graders are choosing their instruments for Grade 4 Ensembles next year. This trip was a culmination of a process of learning about instrument families over the course of the third grade year in preparation for selecting an Ensemble and an instrument for Grade 4 Ensembles.
In the fall, Music Teacher and Department Chair Dave Cordes reached out to the Dean of Community Engagement and Professional Studies at NEC, Tanya Maggi, whom he knew through his own time at the Conservatory, to envision musical partnerships between NEC and Park.
Tanya shared information about an exciting program at NEC called “The Orchestra Swings,” an educational performance designed for Grades 2-6. As a part of this opportunity, Grade 3 Music Teacher Michael Glashow worked with the students in advance on participatory repertoire, including “Duke’s Place” by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” As part of the program, Karlee Kaminga, a French horn player in her final program year at NEC, visited Park on April 21 to discuss her instrument and experience at the conservatory. A goal of the program is to demonstrate to students that music is a passion that anyone can pursue with dedication and hard work.
Jordan Hall buzzed with excitement as students from neighboring elementary schools, including Beethoven, Patrick J. Kennedy, and Bridge Boston, filled the venue. Led by NEC musician and student host Zion Dyson, a Jazz Voice major, the hour-long interactive performance took the students on a journey through orchestral music and jazz. The audience was encouraged to sing along, participate in call-and-response exchanges with conductor Tristan Raissherman, and tap and stomp their feet or clap to the beat of “I Got Rhythm.” The students also had the opportunity to ask questions, ranging from how long it took the musicians to master their instruments to the likelihood of occasional slip-ups on stage, to which the orchestra members responded with chuckles and unanimous nods—hearing from orchestra members who had started playing their instruments at the same age as the Park students was particularly inspiring.
The students at Park exhibit a diverse range of musical experiences. Some have played their instruments for many years, while others are just beginning their musical journey. The music department has the exciting opportunity of meeting the needs of all students so that everyone can make beautiful music together! In the Ensemble program, Park students are encouraged to delve deep into the joys and challenges of their chosen instrument. The goal is to inspire students to focus on one instrument and become proficient in playing it. As one member of the music department stated, “I’m sure we all wish we could learn more than one instrument at once!”
In the course of their teaching, the music department aims to impress upon the students that playing an instrument is an integral part of their identity and a means of becoming part of a larger community. The hope is that the students were inspired by witnessing young professional musicians collaborating in a concert setting and that they can envision themselves pursuing their love for music as far as their individual paths will take them. The department is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for The Park School as they reimagine and think creatively about the Ensemble program.
“Participating in Ensembles shows students that pursuing a passion and working hard can lead to boundless possibilities. All you need is determination and effort,” explained Mr. Cordes. The music department is thrilled to connect students with the local community of musicians and the importance for students to grasp the essence of being a musician and how to utilize their passion for music to enrich the world around them.
When the students returned to campus, the sun was out and all enjoyed a picnic lunch at Larz Anderson Park. In between bites of sandwiches and snacks, the students chatted excitedly about the concert and the musical community that will grow in September, which will be here before we know it!