Sunday, June 13, 2010

North Carolina Governor's School East Mixed Choir- Day 1

Three hundred bright young minds (gifted high school students who have just finished their sophomore or junior years) arrived here at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC for the six amazing weeks of the North Carolina Governor’s school, the first governor’s school in the country. To read more, visit

These young adults will study in one of ten main areas (I am leading the 32 voice mixed choir) plus engage in classes about life, ethics, current events, new ways of looking at things and be addressed by some very interesting guest speakers. They reside fulltime on this small college campus and develop very strong bonds over the six weeks. They are constantly encouraged to try new ideas on for size, and these bright kids, many of them straight A types, are also encouraged to not fear “failing” at something, in the belief that maybe an errant first attempt at something is really the true learning experience, as opposed to the idea of getting everything right the first time and nailing an A at all times. In fact, there are no grades here, just an amazing exploratory experience awaiting them. After their main classes, they can also drop in on a wide variety of ”electives”, one or two hour informal sessions led by a teacher or counselor on just about anything you can imagine. There might be as mini-lecture on zombies, a chance to sing doo-wop, a discussion of Foucault, sports to participate in or just hanging out on the quad. I am starting out by doing electives on geocaching and chess for beginners. That should be fun.

The teachers are from all around the country and are very interesting. They are all outside the box thinkers and quick wits, and all very loving and collegial. Many of us live on the campus and hang out together for hours and/or hang out with the kids on the quad. Its just one big happy family!

So this is where we start- an empty slate to be filled. In fact, when I met with the choral students and their parents today I commented on how cool it is that we get to invent a choir over six weeks starting with just us. I certainly have plans on what I want to lead them toward, but I want them to invent a lot of this- this is about me and my great assistant Susan Hahn facilitating, not dictating, and at first this may seem strange to some of them. I actually intend on sending subgroups off to learn pieces by themselves without any initial help from me or Susan or YouTube. And then we’ll see how well they work together, how many leaders emerge and so on. We’ll guide them and challenge them, but also often get out of their way if they show signs that they want to start conducting, make some of the musical decisions and decisions on how to present our concerts (I doubt we want to be boring in concert, what fun is that?). We’re going to be more about music than about musical scores. We are only going to use scores to learn music, and then put away the scores. And in fact, we’re also going to learn some pieces without scores…shocking, eh?

I’ll try to blog as often as possible (2-3 times per week?) and anyone interested can read my perspective about what happens.

So stay tuned and I’ll try to describe the experience!

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