What happens outside of music class?

by Lower and Middle School Music teacher Emeric Viani

As the school year draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the incredible growth of our young musicians in our program. To be sure, there is much to celebrate. Rather than focus on what we’ve done in the classroom this year, I’d like to highlight some of the music-making that happens outside of our regularly scheduled classes. Through open music, in-school workshops, and field trips, I’ve enjoyed watching students explore, create, and apply the skills and knowledge they acquire in class to other aspects of music-making and music appreciation in their lives.

Open Music

In Middle School, students have the option to spend part or all of their morning/lunch recess in the music room. They can use any instruments in the classroom and hang out with their friends to make music. For some students, this is a welcome break from the hustle-and-bustle of recess. For others, this is a time to form bands and create together. As for me, I act as a “casual observer,” only stepping in to provide feedback (when asked) or help tune a ukulele. And even though my classroom can sometimes sound like there are two competing marching bands performing in the same space, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Watching these students dive into the creative process together has been one of my favorite things to do this year.

Student Drumming Groups

Inspired by last year’s group, The Octopi, four student drumming groups emerged in Middle School this year. Largely self-directed, students worked together to create dynamic music that reflected their personalities and interests. These drumming groups have become a safe space for students to try something new and forge deeper friendships. Already, they have inspired a handful of students to express interest in drumming next year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Genki Spark! Taiko Drumming Assemblies and Workshops

Earlier this spring, we invited the Genki Spark – a pan-Asian women’s taiko drumming ensemble from Brookline – to perform two assemblies for LS/MS/US and present beginner taiko workshops to the first graders. In addition to performing, the group took time to talk about cultural identity and heritage, as well as what it meant to them to perform in a women’s only space with other members of the Asian-American community. Their stories were powerful and it was amazing to see how our students connected with them in the audience. Following their performance, the first graders had the amazing opportunity to kick off their taiko drumming unit with a hands-on drumming lesson with members of Genki Spark! They played on traditional taiko and learned a tricky pattern that became the inspiration for our spring concert showcase.

Second Grade and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

As part of our annual unit on orchestral instruments, the Second Graders traveled to Boston and attended one of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s educational concerts. Led by the masterful Thomas Wilkins, the BSO prepared a varied program of music to showcase the range of the orchestra and music written for it. Maestro Wilkinson narrates each concert, sharing stories about individual pieces or drawing attention to important musical moments to engage the younger audience. After the concert, our students met one of the musicians, a violist named Danny Kim, who gave them a thorough overview of the viola and its amazing versatility. I was so proud to see how engaged our students were during the concert and instrument presentation, and many of them are still talking about that field trip as the year draws to a close.

The Play On Music Festival at Boston Conservatory at Berklee

This year, Mr. Philips and I had the opportunity to take our Middle School drumming groups and members of PikeAppella to the Play On Music Festival in Boston. Play On is an annual music festival that I organize with several colleagues to give a unique performance opportunity to schools that have student-directed groups. This year we had 5 schools from Andover, Waltham, Lawrence, Duxbury, and Sharon come out and perform for each other, attend various music workshops together, and enjoy a unique performance by guest artist, Reynaliz Herrara, a percussionist who specializes in making music with found objects and musical theater. All of our students did a fantastic job preparing for the festival and had a great time in the workshops! We hope to bring more to the festival next year.

American Young Voices

From January to May, our Middle School Chorus students prepared a huge program of music ranging from classic rock, gospel, classical, and pop so that they could perform in the American Young Voices concert at the Tsongas Center in Lowell. American Young Voices is an annual concert-series that gathers thousands of students together so that they can perform as a mega-choir, in an arena, with a live band and guest singers. To give you a sense of scale, our concert featured about 2,000 students from across the state. The concert down in New York City (now in it’s fifth year) featured 8,000 singers. I am beyond proud of how hard our students worked to prepare for this concert, but even more so given the way they carried themselves once at the stadium. They did a great job representing our school and hearing 2,000 students sing together was truly special.

As I said, there is much to celebrate this year. And as I read through this list, I realize there is so much more to talk about. This has been another wonderful year and I feel so fortunate to work with these bright students of ours and to be part of such a supportive community. Many of these experiences and opportunities would not be possible were not it not for the support of our teachers, administrators, families, donors, and extended Pike community. Thank you for all you do to support the arts at Pike each and every year. Have a great summer!

The Pike School is an independent, coed, day school for Pre-K through ninth grade in Andover, Massachusetts. Visit pikeschool.org to learn more about Pike – and visit our blog for more thought leadership. To learn more about admission to The Pike School, visit our Admission page


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2 Comments on “What happens outside of music class?
  1. What an amazing entry! It makes me very proud to know Pike has such a vibrant music program. Thanks for being such a force for music in our community.

  2. You described so many wonderful events that took place this year, and these are just the highlights among the everyday wonder that is music in Pike’s Lower and Middle Schools. Thanks for bringing this wide range of creative opportunities to our students, Emeric!

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