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Middle School Makes Beautiful Music

The annual Middle School Winter concerts were a gift to the listeners' ears. Beautiful music was made by the members of the Middle School band, jazz band, choirs, and orchestra with selections from The Greatest Showman, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Pirates of the Caribbean, Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons.

“Music at GA is a key aspect of the Middle School curriculum," said Head of Middle School Jonas Jeswald. "We know that a thoughtful, intentional, and extensive arts education promotes comprehensive cognitive development, facilitates emotional balance, develops fine motor skills, and enhances creativity in our students. Within the music curriculum, opportunities abound for students to be independent, confident, compassionate, collaborative, and honorable members of our community.”   

We sat down with All-School Band Director Jeremy Correnti to talk about how the magic happens.

How do you choose the music?

"The short answer is that we must pick music that inspires our student's natural inclination to play, which in turns motivates them to be creative. But for me personally, teaching music is about daily healing and building community. We never know what life challenges our students are bringing to class with them every day. My goal is to choose music that helps them feel great and inspires a spirit of collaboration, and stimulates them to move beyond their concerns. If you can do that in rehearsals regularly then it will immediately transfer (in performance) from the band on stage to the audience, and they will feel great too! I truly hope that one of the main takeaways for the parents and families in attendance is that GA is a great place for their children to thrive!

"Picking what motivates them to play is essential, but the other factor is the overall message you a trying to communicate. For the Lower School Winter Program we are trying to communicate a celebration of the holidays with a "holiday party" vibe. With Middle School, the Sixth Grade band is about the size of a jazz band so we can continue to do jazz arrangements, and with Seventh & Eighth Grade Concert Band (which is a larger group) we might do Symphonic Movie Themes like The Incredibles, Star Wars, Black Panther, and whatever else might be current and interesting to the students."

How do the kids respond to the choices, practices, performances?

"We spend a lot of time researching what is available for every age to play and are prepared with our own ideas about what the students can play, but we keep a lot of ideas 'in our back pocket' so we can pivot fairly easily if we find that a song selection fails. It's kind of like being a DJ, but with sheet music that builds music literacy for our students. We will again be motivated by the entire room's inclination to play and create together. If we sense it isn't there, we just replace it with something that hopefully creates that feeling.  Also, we strongly encourage our students to give suggestions for repertoire and song titles. Hearing about what they love to listen to can go a long way to guiding the process and building a show."

Do you see any changes in the students from when you began teaching here and now?

"The biggest change I have noticed is how many more resources are available to the students. All the new technology is such a game changer for music education. Having instant access to recordings on publisher websites and countless tutorials on seemingly every topic on YouTube, are just some examples that are game-changers. This is an incredible time to be a music student and we hope to use every available resource."

Is it fun to see the kids you taught in Lower School and Middle School now in the US bands?

"Absolutely! It is incredible to play music with the Upper School students! After all the great foundation building that happens for the students in the Lower and Middle School classes, it is amazing to perform with the musicians at the Upper School level."

What is the best part of teaching music at GA?

"Working with our students and performing arts faculty is a collaborative experience like no other. The music department is constantly moving forward and thinking of new ways to inspire and educate students, and the students rise to the challenges of performance and consistently bring their best selves to the stage. It's always an incredible journey!"