Performance Opportunities and New Course Reflect Music’s Wide Appeal
Learning an instrument is more popular than ever at Christ Church says the School’s Director of Music Kevin Gillam.
Boys are picking up electric guitars and banging on drums in record numbers while the piano continues to be a favourite. Mr Gillam believes this is a result of the many opportunities boys have to perform at the School. “Performing in a group or band is the ultimate team sport. You hit the finish line at the same time – it is an equal draw with no winners,” he said. He also attributed the increase to the popularity of pop music and the simple fact that “boys like to bang things”.
In 2010, more than 100 students play the guitar and over 50 play the drums. In the Prep School, more than 100 boys are also learning the piano. As a result, the Music School is offering more opportunities to perform than ever.
Rock Workshop, introduced by drum, jazz and classroom teacher Thane Mandin, has been running as a successful Friday afternoon activity for upper school students for 10 years. This year, the Music School introduced additional workshops to cater for the high volume of rock enthusiasts including Prep School and middle school (Years 7 to 10) afterschool workshops. Mr Gillam said these workshops had been well received. “If you play the clarinet you have many options for playing in a group. Rock Workshop gives our guitarists more structured opportunities for performing.”
Another new initiative this year was the introduction of Piano Duet Club in the Prep School. Piano Duet Club, offered to boys who read music fairly fluently, have some sight-reading experience and have at least two years’ tuition on the piano, gives pianists an opportunity to play in an ensemble. Boys from the club will perform during the Prep School’s Week of the Arts in Term 3.
In the classroom, the Music School has been phasing in the new courses of study, part of the national curriculum for Years 11 and 12. Mr Gillam said while the essence of the course - learning pieces, arranging and writing melodies from ear – had remained the same, the resources from which students could now draw on were from a wider pool. “In the past, the music history component has always focused on Mozart and samples of classical music. Now, for the first time, Year 12s will also have to provide samples of contemporary music such as rock and roll or musical theatre.”
Mr Gillam said while the new course demanded a greater knowledge of the teacher in non-classical areas, it was more in line with university music courses where students could study in jazz and contemporary music areas. “It also recognises how musicians have to work today and that to have a career in music you have to be flexible.”
With 37 instrumental teachers and six classroom teachers, the Music School boasts the biggest staff numbers of any department in the School. Mr Gillam said most staff pursued their love of music beyond the teaching walls, which “helps you retain your passion and on sell your interest.” He said conducting with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra gave him a chance to try out different pieces and hone his conducting skills while giving something back to the community.