02.06.17

Lights! Camera! Music!

Neil Ginsberg
Vocal Music Teacher for the Middle and Upper Grades Programs, Upper Division, Avenues: The World School

Although Avenues New York boasts some stunning views (Empire State building to the east, High Line and Garden State to the west), the beloved Hollywood sign is unfortunately not in our sights. But the 8th grade instrumental program has come up with a work-around! This semester, we have spent our class time learning music from films and on Thursday, January 19, at 6:30 p.m., we were delighted to bring the sounds of Hollywood (if not the climate) to New York during a performance in the Black Box Theater.

Students perform at the January concert.

Students perform at the January concert.

Music teachers Brendan Dolan, Gustavo Schartz and I began the term researching film music that we thought would be appropriate for middle grades students. We wanted to represent different styles and explore various time periods of film music. During our first meetings, we soon discovered that all three of us were “film-music buffs” with a fair amount of professional experience in the medium of music for film and television. As usual, the challenge was narrowing down our options and choosing repertoire that suited our instrumental ensembles.

8th graders studied the art of film scoring while preparing for the concert.

8th graders studied the art of film scoring while preparing for the concert.

Over the past few months, movie music echoed through the halls of Avenues. While learning to play and sing the music, students also studied the art of film scoring and how music is used to heighten emotional effects, enhance visual events, help tell stories and give insights into characters. This sometimes meant finding the perfect sound on a synthesizer, constructing a glass harmonica or hitting a percussion instrument at just the right moment. During class, students watched excerpts from films without the sound and then were tasked with providing live accompaniment to the movies. And the night of the instrumental concert, the triumphant themes from Rocky and Star Wars, the pensive Inside Out, majestic Jurassic Park and rocking songs from contemporary films were all represented in the program.

Students played scores from a variety of films.

Students played scores from a variety of films.

It has been a fun curriculum and a great introduction to the art of film scoring. Last week, I heard two students discussing the score of La La Land. How great that 8th graders now aren’t just watching but also listening to movies?