8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 2 - October 2005

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Musical Life Goes Back

Musical Life Goes Back to School - Part II "How I met my Teacher" personal reflections on formative relationships compiled and edited by ml Buell Learning to love the process... Last month I observed that with funding for school music at an all-time low, stories about "the sharing of gifts of spirit and skill with younger people in ways that resonate Jar beyond musicianship" are exceptional. This interview with Tim Alberts, an exceptional music teacher at an ordinary public high school, offers a glimpse into what makes his world tick .. . "I began teaching at Harbord right out of teacher's college. I didn' t actually plan to be a music teacher, but in reality I had to pay off my student loan. While my degree was in Music Education I took a lot of courses in Composition. Teaching was Plan B, something to do for a little while. I had no idea how much I would love it. .. " Tim has taught music at Harbord Collegiate for 15 years. This venerable Toronto public high school serves about 900 students who reflect fairly accurately its urban neighbourhood of working families: a significant number of Asian students, a smaller but significant number of black students, some Portuguese students, and a minority of students whose mother tongue is English. Tim is currently a half-time teacher. He has one colleague who teaches music half-time and drama half-time, and another whose full-time responsibilities are vocal music and strings. This year Tim teaches the two beginning band classes, and the seniors (grade 12), coaches the senior band and the ja:a. band (mostly the same students, just different repertoire), and organizes a pit band for the school musical. He pitches in on piano, percussion, or guitar, and sometimes sax in the jazz band. "What I remember about high school music is learning to love the process. I wasn't one of those kids who needed to be turned on to music. I'd already had piano lessons and theory. But music was starting to feel like a lot of being holed up in the basement playing scales. High school gave me a place to play music with other people, which was a huge thing for me" His teacher, Bob Emberson, provided opportunities for young Alberts to play alto and tenor saxophone, and piano. "There was a concert band, jazz band, and dixieland band, and a really good vocal program (which I wasn't in). A bunch of us also formed an unofficial blues band." Tim proposes that in high school music he didn't really learn a lot of content. But it provided a social context for music, crucial for kids who are at a socially hungry age, 4 years to get to know themselves and each other while doing something collaborative. This collaborative aspect is the bedrock of how he approaches teaching. "I'm not saying content isn ' t important. We have a curriculum for that. I try to make a place where people enjoy making music together. The nuts and bolts they learn just happens in that context. In a way the content comes from the kids, and they are the process." Tim assigns projects expecting creative problems to arise, then stands by to supply what's needed to solve them. Say students have to arrange a medley of tunes for a small ensemble. One group might have trouble transitioning from one tune to the next, evoking discussions of time and key signatures. Another might be fine with those elements but have problems with ground rhythm, and need to explore which instruments best supply it, and discovering how a melody moves above that. Arranging works better than composing to build confidence and playfulness. (Pachelbel's canon played almost exactly as written but played with a reggae beat scandalized some of his newer surprisingly traditional junior students.) Private Instruction: Piano, Voice, Guitar, Strings, Winds & Brass Group Programs: Music for You & Your Baby (0-3 yrs) Orff I Kodaly I Dalcroze Eurhythmics (3-8 yrs) Creative Drama & Speech (ages 6 & up) Music Theory & History (RCM Grades 1-5) The Kingsway ~ • 416-234-0121 Conservatory t: ~ 3086 Bloor Street West Toronto, Ontario M8X 1C8 of Music • • Two blocks west of Royal York Road Sharon M . Burlacoff ARCT B.Mus MA MFA, Executive Director 54 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM Back to Ad Index O CTOB ER 1 - N OV EM BER 7 2005

"Sometimes I feel like I'm the worst behaved kid in the class. I tell my kids the best sessions are when everybody is having fun." His classroom might seem a little undisciplined. But he warns them against goofing around--that if it's not productive, it's not really fun. "I have to be careful. But I try to show them that this is how much fun you have to have in order for anything good to happen." Clouding the fun are pressing challenges to be faced, relating to funding and support. The education system inherited from the Harris government still sees music as peripheral, although there are little hopeful signs that the pendulum could swing back, with support. "There is nowhere near enough money for instrument repair and maintenance, and some of the brass and wind instruments are 30 years old or more. It's hard to learn on something that just doesn't work. There have been no new instruments in 6 years. I have a student who has not yet played this year - we're still waiting for a bass clarinet." While the kids may come to class for the music many of their parents don't come to concerts - sometimes there are more kids onstage than people in the audience. Parents anxious for their children to be on a "career path" are not sure there is room for music in the timetable, past the mandatory grade 9 credit. SONGBIRD STUDIOS j) piano j) voice j) theory A comprehensive program encouraging adults and children to appreciate their musical gifts • reasonable rates • conservatory grades • r & b / pop • musical theatre • audition preparation Hallie Rezsnyak 416-766-7112 "Maybe the students truly need more room to try things; less pressure to decide life's path in grade 9. I don't think education is only for career training. It should be about making whole people. In senior band I can't teach music history without poetry, architecture and painting ... " Few of his students will study music beyond high school. "One student who went into architecture came back to visit and said that what he learned about the connectedness of things in music history had given him a head start. Music reflects things going on in society. The principles of classicism and romanticism in music apply equally to architecture." Remember the class of 2003? those "Double Cohort" kids who graduated from grade 12 with an entire year of grade l 3s? The ones who thought they'd never make it into post-secondary programmes? Ada Wan, a 3rd year Kinesiology student at York University, studied music all the way through Harbord, participating in Band, Orchestra, Jazz Band, flute ensemble, sax ensemble, and the choir. "Since I knew I was probably going into science, I wanted to take something that was different. It allowed me to express myself in ways that science would not allow. Music was a nice break from manipulating numbers or memorizing tedious facts: something to look forward to in a day full of physics, chemistry and math. I couldn't imagine giving up something that fun ... " "Music in high school allowed me to meet people with similar interests who weren't going into science. I still do music related things when my brain hurts from studying. And it allows me to connect with people who play an instrument but are in a completely unrelated field. It also exposed me to performing which has made me a little less shy when speaking in public." MA'RJV'Rif SPARKS VVICE STUVIV MAR]ORIT SPARKS, SOPRANO B.MUS. B. EV. CLASSICAL TECHNIQUE PRIVATE VOICE LESSONS AT ALL LEVELS rNSTRUCTIONS FOR UNIVERSITY AUDITIONS RCM EXAMS, COMPETITIONS AND PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCES. FREQUENT STUDIO RECITALS. Studio Locations: 19 Ravine Park Cr., Scarborough 175 St. Clair Ave. W. , Toronto Tel: 416-282-7460 E-mail: Sophia Perlman, jazz pe,jormer, 3rd year Humber College student (and WholeNote columnist). "I pretty much lived in the band room my last year of high school. My bike helmet lived in the cubbyhole next to my saxophone. During my spare or lunch, I'd sit and compose, practise, sing, or take a nap on the shelf next to the trombones. If Mr. Alberts knew, he never said anything ." "It wasn't his style to gush about a gifted student. He wouldn't force you into extra rehearsals, or call your parents to make sure they knew about you. But he was there if you needed extra rehearsals. He'd answer questions, and he'd open the band room for a senior student who needed space to discover things for themself." Tim's advice to prospective music educators "No matter how much you really love music, you have to make sure that you really like kids. There are lots of great musicians who should NOT be teachers. Kindness has to be a big part of teaching. As importantly, be involved in collaborative music outside of the classroom. As a teacher you're modeling it. If you're not having fun, your students won't either." Tim Alberts attended Centennial Collegiate/ Vocational Institute (Guelph). He graduated from the University of Western Ontario, and teacher's college at the University of Toronto. He has a small music production company and composes music for film and video. Tim and his songwriting partner Philip Cottrell are currently working a second CD (the first one, "Spin" was released in February 2005) . Toronto Musicians Association News compiled and edited by Brian Blain Music Education Initiative: The TMA's new music enrichment program had its successful launch at St. Boniface School, Scarborough, in April. Thanks to our member and teacher Darius Nargolwalla for helping us make the arrangements, and thanks to the students and staff at the school for their enthusiastic reception of the program. We are very excited about the potential of this program to enrich music classes now in place, and as an introduction to rhythm for students who are new to music studies. Now we need some help from music professionals and teachers, and members of the public, to advise us where we should offer our program next. Please contact Rosemary Galloway, President of the TMA with your suggestions: Here is a brief description of CO NTI NUES ,'JI TMA Executive Assistant Nancy Neal (pictured with locked-out CBC host Hana Gartner) and other TMA members and staff joined locked-out Canadian Media Guild members for an earlymorning march along Front Street. The protest against Blue Man Group continues as well, with a determined campaign to achieve collective agreements for the pe,jormers and stagehands of the Toronto Blue Man production. Prepare your Voice for the World Stage For the past 20 years Daniel Eby, Artistic Director of The New School of Classical Vocal Studies (NSCVS), has taught vocal technique in downtown Toronto. Over the years, some amazing voices have been developed in his vocal studio, and many of them have gone on lo fulfilling careers in the operatic world. Prepare your voice to reach World Class potential! Phone: 416-927-9800 or e-mail O CTOBE R 1 - N OV EMB ER 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 55 Back to Ad Index

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