This weekend I have the incredible opportunity to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana to give a marching percussion clinic to the students at the Dolores T. Aaron Academy. My roommate of two years during my undergraduate studies, Mr. Andy Bower, was hired at this brand new school in an underprivileged part of New Orleans this year, and has started a music program from scratch. After graduating, Andy joined the Teach for America program and taught mathematics in New Orleans his first year before landing a music job.
The Dolores T. Aaron Academy is under the management of ReNEW Schools, a nonprofit organization that focuses on finding the lowest performing schools in New Orleans and transforms them into rigorous college-preparatory institutions. "Since [its] inception in 2010, [ReNEW Schools] have seen the number of scholars on-track to college more than double, going from 20% pre-ReNEW to 51% with ReNEW" (ReNEW Website). The ReNEW initiative will serve 10% of New Orleans' youth by the end of the 2014-15 school year. Andy is lucky to be involved in and make a career with a program such as ReNEW Schools, but he is certainly the right man for the job!
The clinic I will give this weekend will focus on the fundamentals of marching percussion, including techniques for the different battery percussion instruments, fundamentals of sound production, ensemble playing, rehearsal etiquette, and performance. As a member of the Vic Firth Education Team, I was able to ask the Vic Firth Company to support the clinic by sending some sticks and promotional goods to the school, so a big thanks goes to the Vic Firth Company! Look for a picture soon!
As part of the clinic, I put together a technique and exercise handbook to aid the students in their percussive journey even after the clinic is over. The handbook contains literature and exercises for all aspects of marching percussion, as well as three custom-written tunes for the drumline to perform. Hopefully we will learn some of them this weekend! In the process of designing the handbook and tunes, I upgraded my Sibelius sound library to include the latest version of Tapspace's Virtual Drumline. This update makes my design productions infinitely better, as I now have virtually every percussive sound at my disposal to make accurate recordings of all the music I write. There is a lot of MIDI understanding involved, but with the proper mapping diagrams, it is actually very easy to use!
Teaching has always been a hobby of mine. I prefer not to call anything I do "work," because that usually comes with a negative connotation. Although I never plan to work in a school district or be a full-time teacher, I am very passionate about music education and how important it is to the development of a child. The children of the DTA Academy live in an historically underserved area and although they have unlimited potential, they had limited educational resources. ReNEW Schools is working to change the statistics and make New Orleans a center for cultural and intellectual growth. New Orleans has an incredibly rich musical heritage, and much of the music we label as "American music" comes from the influences of New Orleans. From French influence to Spanish Influence, to English Influence, and ultimately early United States influence, the amount of musical history in New Orleans is incredible. As a teacher, I can not wait to work hands-on with the youth of one of the most musical cities in the world and have some sort of influence on the future lives of these young children.
Once I return from the trip, I will probably write another post about my experience in The Big Easy. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures!
Once again, I would like to thank Andy Bower and ReNEW Schools for having me as a guest clinician, and the Vic Firth Company for supporting the clinic with sticks and promo goods!