Music’s New Tune

RSGC has always placed high importance on its music program. Without being able to sing or have a band, the music department has had to reinvent itself to ensure that the boys are learning, engaged and having fun – all while enjoying some tunes.
Things have been shifted around and look very different, but the music teachers have developed a program that works.

Tom Wade West is working with the Senior School music students this year and he notes how well the students have adapted to the new reality of instruments at home – and other activities at school.

“They are engaged and positive and a true pleasure to work with. Some of the classes have been using GarageBand and are exploring the world of editing, composing and arranging. The students have also prepared some marvelous class presentations,” said Mr. Wade West. “During their at-home days, they play their instruments and record assignments on Flipgrid or other platforms. In class, they are learning music history and theory, and exploring the world of ear training and rhythm reading, among other activities.”

Similarly, in Mr. Jamieson’s choral music classes, the students are engaged in a blend of history and theory in class, while being coached in their vocal performance on their at-home days. For Mr. Wade West, Mr. Jamieson – and their students – it has been fun and enlightening to explore music in new ways, using the latest technology to great advantage.

Emily Johnson is working with the Grade 7 and 8 cohort, and has found a groove with the boys by creating, composing and improvising music through digital platforms.

“The emphasis this year has been on the creative process in music. We’ve tied music theory and history into creative digital applications instead of performing on band instruments or in a choir. We started the year using a composition program called Google Song Maker. The boys studied the parts that make up a song: melody, bass line and rhythm. Then we looked at how to compose those three parts, how to combine them into a composition, and how to notate the notes and the rhythms on a musical staff. It’s actually pretty cool,” said Ms. Johnson. “The boys have been highly engaged and they’re loving the creative aspect of it. They really enjoy composing their own music.”

With the removal of instruments from the Grade 7/8 music program, students are focused more on the creative side of music than they would normally be at this stage.

“This has been a silver lining and the boys are really getting into it. My hope is that now that they have studied music from a different perspective, they’ll have a new appreciation and understanding of playing in band whenever things go back to normal,” said Ms. Johnson. “Now that I’m developing all of this content, it’s something that can go hand-in-hand with band class in the future. Digital music creation and learning an instrument can work together to create a more well-rounded musical experience in the future.”

In Grades 3 to 6, Will Reid has been teaching the boys how to play the ukulele. Usually a vocal teacher, Will does enjoy playing instruments and has four years of experience on the ukulele.

“I think the ukulele is a fun instrument to play. The students are able to make a nice sound rather early in the learning process, which is rewarding for them, and it creates a situation where, hopefully, they are inclined to play more!” said Mr. Reid. “Unlike the voice or most band instruments, our students are able to play chords on the ukulele, which opens up more musical opportunities and comprehension. But it is not all ukulele all the time. We’re also working on theory and music appreciation, through a diverse catalogue of music.”