Byram Hills has been working diligently across the four schools to keep music and the arts alive and robust throughout the pandemic.
“This has been an opportunity for us to reflect upon the process of music,” said Pete Pauliks, Director of Fine Arts. “We must remind ourselves what gave us goosebumps the first time we heard a performance or performed ourselves. It’s that glimmer in a student’s eye and the magic of music that we want to recreate for students.”
Young musicians are unguarded, uninhibited, and free from the pressure of having to do things right or perfect. They can explore, experiment, laugh, be silly, and use their imagination without boundaries. The pressure of performance has an impact on that joyful process, as students mature and the musicianship and interpretation often diminish. Byram Hills is evaluating the musical experience, as they want to deliver authentic, hands-on participation. “We can press pause with music education and reimagine what this could look like. Teachers are reinventing and giving students a voice to play a bigger role,” said Mr. Pauliks.
COVID-19 has allowed for contemplation of the musical process and has removed some of the pressure associated with performances. Teachers have more time to focus on beginning skills such as finger, hand, and arm positioning, posture, and why these skills are important. The silver lining is that lessons have been reconstructed to teach the importance of reading, understanding, and interpreting musical notes. “We want to excel and stay competitive, but we don’t want to lose the excitement of experiencing music from the inside out, the way we do at the primary level,” said Mr. Pauliks. “How can we reignite that fire that we once saw in students when they were first learning? Music is about the joy, figuring it out, the lightbulb moment, the feeling of community, trying and succeeding, and crossing the finish line, but in a different way.”
Teaching incorporates exploring, discovering, and tapping into something. Music classes include collaborating and building critical, transferable skills. “We develop this through a process - the why and how. We can take our time and dig deeper into the nuances of music,” said Mr. Pauliks. Teachers at every grade level have been spending more time on basic musical concepts such as beat, rhythm, and harmony.
Byram Hills talented and resourceful music teachers have created student opportunities to perform virtually. Students and teachers are doing incredible work coordinating solo performances from home, and then editing them into ensemble pieces.
Each of the school's music teachers have discovered new technologies to engage learners effectively. The SmartMusic Accompaniment platform enables students to play along with a song that incorporates all band sections and allows students to mute their instruments to hear the band and accompany the track. Listening to the tempo of the track changes makes performing solo less isolating. This virtual music experience mirrors an authentic experience.
Quaver Music is a new interactive music program for grades K-5. Teachers can choose activities, tasks, and lessons through Google Classroom. It also offers tools for basic musical knowledge and includes features such as Class Play, which allows students to practice songs. These resources supplement the music program and will continue beyond the pandemic as they allow for differentiation, skills reinforcement, and an enhanced learning environment.
The Music Department’s fundamental elements are centered around teamwork and group experiences and provide students with a well-rounded education that builds self-esteem and prepares them for a bright future. The Byram Hills Music Department continues to strike the right chords.