Sunday, April 8, 2012

Student Achievement through Music

A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

by Daryl Silberman, Director of Orchestras

Student achievement best practices extend to all types of learning, including music.
West Salem Titans Orchestra
I love to hear the stories from my mom about when she grew up – no TV’s, no cell phones, no computers, not much of anything other than a radio. After school, kids back then maybe had a few activities they could pursue in sports, music or dance. Most kids would come home after school, get their homework done, and then play or help around the house. My mom was raised in a culturally inspired family – she took dance classes and music lessons. She remembers actually having time to practice flute and piano. She took the train into the city (NY) for her dance class once a week.

I compare that schedule to the schedule of my orchestra students – the busiest student of mine has the following activities: Advanced Chamber Orchestra, after school Advanced Symphony Orchestra, Varsity swimming for our high school, club swim team, varsity cross country, Students for Change club, 4 hours a week volunteering at the Salem Hospital, taking 3 AP exams in May, 4.0 GPA and graduating Valedictorian this year. She is the only person I know who can actually fall asleep playing violin, and yet still play all the notes correctly and be counted upon to lead a section. My students on the whole are so much busier than I ever was, and certainly more busy than my mom’s generation.

With all that in mind, I challenge myself to share my passion of music with my students and endeavor to help my students become the best musicians they can be. My goal is that they love music and support the arts (classical and/or string music in particular) for the rest of their lives. So, well beyond my preparation, teaching and grading, I concern myself with introducing them to as many aspects of a musical life that I can. I bring guest conductors into my program often, making sure there is time for the students to ask them questions about how they got to be where they are in life. I bring coaches in to work with my individual sections. I make sure that all students in my program have access (for free or little money) to attend local collegiate and professional symphony orchestra concerts. I also make sure that stringed instrument music is presented in many genres – orchestral, historically informed baroque performance, chamber music, solo recitals, contemporary (rock/jazz/crossover). Students need to know that music happens all around them and that at whatever level they can play it, they are always welcome to love it.

Today is the day after the spring concert for me – we played mainly classical pieces, with the exception of Robert Kerr’s Gathering Storms and a really cool arrangement of Bach Cello Suite I Prelude by “Piano Guys” Stephen Sharp Nelson for 8 cellos – and we will celebrate by playing some electric stringed instruments for the next few days. I have brought in all my electric violins and my electric guitar sound effects pedals – our A wing will be filled with the lovely sounds of experimenting stringed instruments for the rest of the week. All in the name of keeping strings relevant in the 21st century.

Daryl Silberman has been the director of orchestras at West Salem High School in Salem, OR since August 2007. Under her leadership, the orchestra has traveled to Chicago and Boston with Heritage Festivals, hosted the Salem-Keizer District Orchestra festival annually, and her Chamber Orchestra has qualified and performed at the OSAA State Orchestra festival annually (placing 1st in 2011). She came to public school teaching after a successful career as a freelancer for years.

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