On the last day of school last year, I skipped out a bit early. I said goodbye to my dutiful orchestra students and headed west into the foothills above Denver. Just outside of town is one of my favorite places in the world, Redrocks Ampitheater. The awesome choir I sing with was invited to join the Colorado Symphony Chorus and the Colorado Symphony onstage with the Flaming Lips to perform their album The Soft Bulletin.
It was incredible to be a part of a genre-bending collaboration that culminated in a beautiful concert in front of 9,000 screaming fans nestled between the 3 giant red slabs reaching toward the peaks. The lights of Denver spread out behind us, Wayne Coyne pulled on a giant lighted helmet that connected to hundreds of feet of LED roping that reached out into the crowd.
Growing up in traditional music education programs, I kept my rockstar ambitions at home (and at church youth group). I started playing guitar and even took lessons for a year-long before I ever took formal voice or clarinet lessons. But even throughout my formal music education, I separated my guitar playing (my “modern” instrument”) from my pursuit of a degree in vocal music performance and music education (my “classical” instrument).
Looking back, I realize that this separation did not make me a better classical musician and certainly didn’t do anything for my modern musicianship skills. Ultimately, I am now practicing my guitar, drum set, and keyboard skills in order to bring them up to speed with my overall musicianship.
Today’s students don’t need to be put through this. We have no need to build this wall between classical and modern music. When students are actively engaged in music-making (no matter the instrument or repertoire), they thrive in creativity, innovation, and connection!
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a training with Little Kids Rock here in Denver, CO! This incredible group trains teachers to teach what they call “Modern Band” and fundraise to provide districts, schools, and teachers, with the instruments needed to start contemporary music ensembles in public schools. They have a lot of awesome resources and ideas that you should definitely look into!
For my birthday this year, I got a beautiful brand new Epiphone Les Paul Pro-II to explore my inner rock-star! I’m looking forward to this journey and hope you’ll come along with me! Rock on!