Musical experiences that foster self-expression

By December 14, 2018

Students who attend Oak Meadow School have many different offerings available to them as part of our Performing Arts Program, which include music, dance, and drama. Parents will not be surprised to learn there is remarkably strong philosophical alignment between performing arts and everything else that happens at Oak Meadow. In fact, the overarching goal of the music program is to foster in students a love for making music and to help them become uninhibited and joyful singers, dancers, and instrumentalists who will be enthusiastic to remain musical throughout their lives. The curriculum is designed to create a fun learning environment that uses highly engaging activities to motivate students to embrace their musical selves and to be expressive and imaginative.

Of course, there are many fine schools in our area with strong music and theater programs. Since I believe the educational experience at Oak Meadow is far superior to what parents will find in any other school in this area, I thought it might be helpful to elucidate more clearly the unique benefits of our programs for the performing arts. With this in mind, I sat down with music teacher Steve Pixley to ask for his insights. Here are some of the benefits to our program as explained by Steve:

Oak Meadow students will have many more opportunities to perform in multiple performances over the course of their school experience. By 8th grade, all of our students will have performed in more than one musical and play as part of their regular curriculum, and most will have taken advantage of multiple opportunities to be in musicals outside of the regular school day. In fact, many of our students will have had as many as 8 or 10 or more roles on stage at Oak Meadow by the time they graduate.

Oak Meadow provides more choice-based programs for those students who would like to go further in their musical and theatrical studies. In many other schools, there is a winnowing of students who participate in music as they advance through the grades. Most schools require music classes only through 5th grade which  leaves only the most self-motivated or most skilled to continue in the program. Many schools do not offer drama opportunities during the regular school day. At Oak Meadow, in addition to providing more choice-based programs, we also make sure that all students continue to engage with music and theater through 8th grade, confident in the inherent value of performing arts for students at all ages, and recognizing that many students discover their passions and affinity for the arts as they get older.

Oak Meadow’s program has none of the state-based constraints that pre-determine nearly all aspects of public music programs, including content, sequence, and skill sets. Many of these constraints are even adopted by other private schools. In contrast, Oak Meadow’s program is able to adapt to each group of students, to evolve over time, and to pivot nimbly and follow the interests and unique needs of students.

The flexibility of Oak Meadow’s music and drama curriculum allows for greater student input in varied aspects of the performing arts. This might include choosing repertoire, determining choreography and blocking, making musical arrangements, writing songs and scripts for performance, and designing and crafting costumes, props, scenery, program art, and stage makeup.

Oak Meadow students have the opportunity to explore musical traditions well beyond the boundaries of Western classical music. Our students have lengthy, hands-on units in African music, Caribbean steel pan drums, Native American music and dance, and Indonesian music and shadow puppetry, as well as woodshop-based training in instrument design and construction. Other schools typically do not have the in-house expertise nor the flexibility to incorporate these offerings within more rigid curricular structures.

I welcome your comments and stories about your child’s musical experiences at Oak Meadow School: jscheurle@oakmeadow.org