It can be said that our school district is our music department is the best in the country and you can claim that your music department is the best but you're wrong (KIDDING). In all honesty however, the Music Department within our school district has teachers that have elevated their departments to the most amazing skill / education levels of the students to levels that are flat out scary. As a parent it makes you very proud when you realize that your child is a member of the the 2014 Illinois State Champion Runner-up in the IHSA Class C division. The rankings are a result of accumulated points for the solo and ensemble contest and organizational contest.
There were 81 schools in the division and this was the third time in the last six years they have finished second in the State and they never finished less than fourth during that span. In the 2014 IHSA contest the Galena High School Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Choir, Concert Band and Concert Choir all received Division I, superior ratings (each judge giving those groups Division I rankings). As the dad of a member of the Concert Band and Choir it can only be said that I am ecstatic and not just because of the ratings. My daughter (and our son who will be a freshman this August) have three teachers that are excellent educators (and excellent people) that have only the education of their students in mind while challenging the students every class.
Steve Holland, Mark Baglione and Tara Anderson have transformed the program(s) into what can only be considered to be masterful in their craft. I've seen the students grow and I have watched their talents skyrocket within the setting of the Galena Middle and High School band and choir. Its an honor to know that educators such as the trio mentioned previously are teaching my children. Music programs can help mature the minds of the youth throughout their school experiences and I would equate that maturity to a couple of factors. First of all great teachers are paramount but the hidden factor would be in what I would call a "top NON secret" language that lies within each piece of music they learn. In all fairness I had music class throughout my grade and middle school tenure if you will and I didn't learn a stinking thing. I didn't, I'm being honest. Well except that I remember learning the song "Detour" and the musical "Oklahoma" but (un)fortunately I don't remember much else.
Music is a difficult little language in and of itself and I stand by the belief that its subtle nuances and complexity are the very reason many children grow mentally and culturally within the bounds of the schools that provide those classes. Today I read a "note" on Facebook that was written using musical notes and symbols (see I told you I don't remember anything) and my reaction to it was like learning ancient Phoenician. Despite my shortcomings I would bet almost anything that I could show that note to a fifth grade student in my school district that they would be able to decipher it immediately. That's where the educator comes in and that is where their talent as educators shines.
Despite the fact that it would be impossible for me to learn how to play triangle in the simple song "Happy Birthday" complexity in music is something that I couldn't simply learn. That complexity is in the very fabric of the music education with our school district. From the first time I went to see my daughter and the rest of her classmates perform for the first time as members of the Galena Middle School Fifth Grade band I have been amazed by the way they have grown each time. Much like the way a tree grows, ring after ring, year after year, so does the complexity of the performances that Mr. Holland introduces to his students.
For the 2014 Spring Concert Mr. Holland had included a piece of music called "An American Elegy" composed by Frank Tichelli. Tichelli had written the piece in memory of the tragedy that befell the victims of the Columbine High School attacks on April 20th, 1999. The piece is haunting, powerful and beautiful and the Galena High School band performed it impeccably. Despite the humming of the lights in the gymnasium (the very room I tried to avoid for the four years I attended that school) lies what I would say is the best performance they have ever done. Please take note of the performer that gets up in the middle and walks off behind the black curtain. That young man has left the gymnasium and stepped into the hallway to play a piece of solo music and when I saw it live made me almost shed a tear by itself.
Ladies and gentlemen I can tell you without a doubt that the school district, its past, present and future students are blessed to have the music program that we do. Simple words cannot be uttered to describe the growth I have seen from that first fifth grade performance to this performance and fortunately for me I have four more years of band concerts to go.
Music is subjective, we all like different types of music but anyone that has a love of music, that simple joy that can be explained by a mere smile, can appreciate its complexity and recognize its beauty. It would be criminal to take music, or band or chorus from an educational experience from children. Those exposed to that option are better for it, they are not only smarter, they are complex, discerning and cerebral, all of those things that can only make better men and women. I look forward to four more years of the concert band, jazz band, choir and that next ring in the tree of the educational experiences such education provides. Great work and thank you!