Nueva Music Teachers Jim Munzenrider and Katie Gerber

For the past two years, grades preK-5 Music Teacher Katie Gerber and Middle School Music Teacher Jim Munzenrider have been teaming up to combine classroom learning with studio practice to expose their fifth grade classes to a true country music experience. The Country Music Project explores the symbiotic relationship of culture and music that defines the genre, examining the people, places, and events that gave birth to the country music we know today.

The class moves between American cities, “stopping” at each to give students the opportunity to research and present on a specific artist, exploring the musicology and influences behind the artist’s work.

From examining call-and-response form in early American spirituals to playing Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog as a class in front of a live audience, the Country Music Project exposes students to the power music has in shaping person and place.

“The Oak Ridge Boys explored many vocal styles and often used a 1-4-5 chord progression,” explains Ezra B. during his final presentation. “I like their modern songs, but what I especially like is how they accent parts in the song that they want you to really hear,” he explains as a crescendoing “special kind of sunshine in a smile” rings out of the speakers playing their number one hit, “Thank God For Kids”.  


“I don’t ask students to make connections between their artist’s personal life and the music, the students pick those up on their own,” says Katie of her students’ final presentations.


Students then join Jim in the studio to learn to play the very same songs they studied in Katie’s class. “There’s a broad range of exposure from the start. Some students come in having never picked up an instrument before, whereas others rip through theory, but this might be their first time improvising and playing with a band,” says Jim.

The Fifth Grade Performing Country Music The fifth grade peforming the country music they studied in class  

Coming together as a group adds another layer of meaning to the unit by combining students’ musical understanding of chord progressions, harmonies, and accents with their understanding of the context from which these songs came. Students are free to try on the music, to explore and be creative within it.

By the end of the unit, students’ opinions on country music might remain unchanged, but the perspective gained by understanding the meaning and history behind it leaves students with an openness to exploration that will serve them in years to come.

 “These songs tell stories,” declares one student during her final presentation, “they depict people in their lives.”


February 6, 2015

10 Friday assembly “Trips have a long history at Nueva, starting in 1972,” begins this 2008 Nueva Notes article detailing the cherished precedent of extending the classroom frontier beyond the Nueva campus.

Today, 43 years after students first ventured out into the world, the spirit of immersive learning is still very much alive. 

 

December 18, 2014

"The Silk Road is the internet of Antiquity."
-Yo-Yo Ma

As a living, breathing embodiment of the grades 7-8 humanities curriculum, the Silk Road, or The Grand Biennial Humanities Silk Road Bazaar as it is officially named, is a gemstone event in the life of a Nueva student, and is often cited years later as a fondest memory for many Nueva alumni.

 

December 19, 2014

Last Friday, the Hillsborough campus turned into an arts exposition as students from grades 6-8 celebrated the culmination of the first semester of work in elective and art classes.  In true opening night fashion, refreshments were served and the artists in training circulated with their mentors to explain their process to an audience of parents, faculty, and staff. 

This past weekend, families and friends were treated to The Nueva School's Musical Theatre Academy's 10th annual middle school production. The students performed Lerner & Loewe's Brigadoon, the story of two American tourists who stumble upon a mysterious Scottish village. This Broadway classic featured humor, romance and, of course, dancing!

Eton S. starred as Tommy Albright, who with friend Jeff Douglas, gets lost in a mysterious Scottish town named Brigadoon.
David F. starred as Jeff Douglas, a city slicker from New York who wandered into Brigadoon with friend Tommy Albright.
Villagers of Brigadoon congregate on MacConnachy Square on market day.
Villagers of Brigadoon dance in the square on market day.
Hunter H. starred as Fiona MacLaren, who falls in love with Tommy Albright.
Charlie Dalrymple, played by Louis B., toasts the new visitors to Brigadoon.
Jeff Douglas tries to fend off the overly friendly Meg Brockie, played by Jenna L.
Charlie sings and dances in anticipation of his wedding to Jean MacLaren.
Scottish dancing by Sarah B.
Fiona and Tommy prepare to collect heather on the hill (and to fall in love)
Jeff continues to ward off Meg’s romantic interest.
Harry Beaton, played by Cameron C., declares his love for soon-to-be-married Jean MacLaren. Eliot C, right, played Jean’s father, Andrew.
Jean MacLaren, played by eighth-grader Audrey C., dances before her wedding.
Elder statesman Mr. Lundie, played by Anjali S., tells the story of Brigadoon, and the Brigadoon miracle, to Fiona, Tommy, and Jeff.
The Scottish clans wear their tartans to the wedding. Left to right: Sandy Dean (Tyler G.), Maggie (Sarah B.), Leathan (Naila W.), Charlie (Louis B.), and Abigail (Lucy B.)
Mr. Lundie presides over the marriage of Jean and Charlie.
True to form, Meg frolics at the wedding party as the bride and groom look on.
The wedding guests dance, before things take a somber turn.
Annie Beaton, played by Asante S., mourns the death of her son, Harry.
Tommy, back in New York, meets his fiancé, Jane, played by Emily S., at a bar. He can’t stop thinking about Fiona, so he decides to go back to Scotland to try to find her (which he does!).
The Brigadoon crew gets a standing ovation after Friday night’s performance.
Bonus photo: Several Nueva dads (including these three) wore kilts to every performance, in support of their children who were performing in the play. Photo: Paula Murphy.

Photos by Anna Sheen

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