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Thacher Music Blog

The elevator pitch and the National Anthem

As I mentioned in the past couple of posts, I recently spoke to several dozen prospective parents about the music program at our big open house event. Sometimes, because of the amount of parents coming into the room, I have to give a synopsis that is rather quick. When it gets like this, I rather jokingly refer to this as my elevator pitch.

What I have to describe is how the main work of music in the school is the internalization and distinguishing of all the aspects of music, to the point where these internal experiences can be named and are all coordinated with each other. In the early years this means acquiring the ability to distinguish the division of the major diatonic octave, or put another way, to know the names and qualities of the different notes. It also means coming to know and name the subdivisions of a 4 beat rhythm while keeping a beat. This is done through many playful activities. As the students progress in age these abilities are scaffolded into greater intricacy and duration and bring in elements of meaning, narrative, identity, and social awakening. As we struggle to coordinate these abilities, we also given a mirror of our self. We find we are not coordinated. We find our will to persist, to observe, to analyze, and to synthesize, brings us to new coordination and new perceptions. We come to know ourselves not as an impression or snapshot from our senses, but as a force of will.

This internal process is always and in proportion brought to bear against the students’ outer world. For the youngest it is simply: ‘can I sing out the notes i just heard in the right order right with everyone else to fill the room with sound?’. We find support in those around us who are also coordinating these impressions, even if they are a very different type than us. As the students age, the outer world changes in definition, and our work changes in proportion. There are presentations to the class and there are concerts. In these presentations, on every scale, the emphasis is this: we do our best. What happens over time is the growing familiarity with the vulnerability of applying our present state of coordination, from a place of sincerity, no matter how confident we are in it, directly to the outer world. What we come to know from this is, as certainty, that when we accept to apply our will, in coordination with others, in this way, we change the world.

Below is a video of the group of Upper El and AP students who could make it in the night before a big holiday, presenting the National Anthem in 3-part-harmony at the opening game of the Curry College men’s basketball team.

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