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iSchool’s music and art programs

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As iSchool students walk down the hallways, sounds of instruments fill the air along with scribbling pencils. Music students sing and play instruments that can be heard from a far distance. At the same time, the rest of the  students are in their assigned classes asking questions about the homework from the previous night or about what might be on an upcoming quiz.

Meanwhile, art students are in their assigned art classes finishing up their paintings that might be due by the end of the day. Students are wearing their plain white aprons, and work diligently, with paintbrushes in hand.

The iSchool offers a range of music and art classes through electives and modules. In these classes, students learn valuable skills, allowing them to develop an interest either in arts or music. This can even relate to their careers that they might want to pursue down the road. Kids who have a passion in art might be taking classes like Children’s Book design, Intro to Painting, NYC Painting, and so on, while kids who are interested in music might be taking classes like Piano 2, Beat making, and so on.

Music Program

The music program is really unique because of its in-depth classes. For example, the module Inside the Music teaches students music theory and techniques of composition in order to produce advanced and complex pieces of music. This course lasts for about 10 weeks, allowing teachers to teach students valuable skills of how music is composed in today’s world. Once the piece is finished, the iSchool hires a string quartet to play each student’s piece. piece.  With considerable guidance and a rigorous environment, students learn material that an arts-based school would have taken to teach over multiple months.

The Winter Jazz performance on December 20, 2016, in the 5th floor Commons.

The winter  jazz performance on December 20,2016 in the 5th floor Commons.

“I’ve been here since the beginning,” Mr Paris said.

Along with teaching his classes, Paris also runs the rock band, a club that is held after school about three times a week.  Now, almost ten years later, Mr Paris has gone from teaching a rock band with six students to having two rock bands with 3 guitar sections and multiple other sections along with a full jazz ensemble. He annually conducts band concerts that are held in the 5th floor Commons, in which both the rock bands and jazz ensemble participate. Both of them present different types of music that students and teachers can enjoy after a long day of work.

To have multiple classes and manage it all by yourself isn’t any easy thing to.  Mr. Paris responded with a chuckle “Yep!”. “It can be difficult finding new music and trying to keep up with everything along with finding ways to keep everyone engaged and involved.” It’s a challenge but it’s a good challenge.”

Being the only music teacher at times can be frustrating and challenging due to the lack of staff and equipment. However, at other times it can be more flexible because of the freedom to design their classes they way want to and make it more engaging for students. Here, kids who take music classes love them for this reason, that kids are given the responsibility to use the skills they have learned to create interesting pieces of music.

Ryohei Shima, a iSchool sophomore and a member of the Rock Band, described his experience as an “amazing” one and really likes the way he is able to play songs he thought he’d never play. “Mr Paris is always helpful and I can count on him when it comes to music”.

Art Program

Similarly to the music program, the iSchool art program includes a range of in-depth classes where students learn valuable art skills, allowing them to critically think and apply them to on a daily basis in class.

NYC painting is a class in which students learn advanced painting and drawing techniques to create realistic scenes of NYC using “photo realist approach,” which means to photograph interesting city scenes that are enlarged in order to paint. Towards the end of the class, experts critique the students’ paintings. Student’s get the perspective and feel as if they are actual painters.

Art teacher Ms. Smith discussed the art program that she runs here at the iSchool: “Well, it’s a small school and I am the only art teacher, so I try to cover as much as I can over the year so that people who are interested in art have a chance to draw if they want too or paint or do some sculpture or printmaking. We have a comic’s class, children’s book class, some of my classes are more technical based on technical art skills and some of them are more free and creative. So I just try to make sure that there is a really good balance of art courses offered here.”

The art classes at the iSchool are extremely flexible, allowing students to create what they want to create. They can range from simple to complex. This goes for classes that are on the  free and creative side and others that are technique based. Some students like classes that are more creative because they get to be more artistic while others like technique based because they like to be more realistic and precise in what they create.

Ms. Smith says, “No, it’s not difficult. We are a small school and I feel like I kind of like being able to create the program by myself and shape it how I want. I feel like we have such a creative staff that there are other people who do artistic things in their classes. So I feel like even though we are not an art-based school, I feel like there is a lot of really good opportunities for students who are interested in arts.”

Ms. Smith believes that schools that are art based are “cool and kids who really really know at a young age that they want to pursue art, it’s a great place for them.” However, Ms. Smith brings up a valid point that “A lot of kids don’t really know what they want to do at this age. It is important to develop all the parts of your brain and creative thinking is just one of those pieces of the puzzle and I think it is important for everyone to have that.”

Here at the iSchool, there is a variety of art courses that are being developed each year. In these classes, there is something that a student will like or began to develop an interest for whether it is painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. By the end of these classes, students walk out with something they are passionate about that they did not know before. They develop skills that are extremely beneficial, making them stand apart from one another.

This is Ms. Smith’s view on offering more or less art classes:  “No, I think we have a good number and also the iSchool is a place where teachers have a lot of freedom to develop classes. For instance, I developed a new class this year. So, whenever I feel like I have been teaching the same thing  for a long time I can always develop something new. So I don’t feel limited by that.  So, I feel like it is a good number of classes for now and I know I have the freedom to develop other ones if I want to in the future.”

Teachers at the iSchool value the freedom that they have to create their classes. Like before, each year new classes are being developed, allowing teachers to change it up rather than doing the same for a longer period of time. In this case, the development of new and different classes exposes students to different types of art and art methods. It broadens their thinking of art, allowing them to interpret the way they think and view art.

Schools like LaGuardia, Frank Sinatra and other music and arts-based schools offer musical classes and produce excellent material that is geared towards their curriculum. However, to see a school like the iSchool, an academic oriented school, produce excellent music and offer art classes is quite extraordinary and unique. Even with the challenge of having one art and music teacher, the iSchool still offers fantastic programs that really engage students, allowing them to demonstrate their artistic and musical abilities.

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