Music In Our Schools

Music In Our [Digital] Schools: Balance, Creativity, & Joy

Did you know that March is Music In Our Schools month? We reached out to our amazing Distinctive Schools music teachers to celebrate their work, and learn more about their classroom practice. This month brought a new set of challenges to our music teachers – we have experienced an unprecedented shift, flipping the paradigm of school overnight. Innovative, student-centered environments, student-directed learning, and a strong culture prepared Distinctive students and teachers to quickly shift their classrooms to focus on At-Home Learning

As families – and teachers– across the country have adapted to this new reality, Distinctive Schools music teachers are doing their part to continue bringing joy, student-centered curriculum, and artistic opportunities for expression to their students... only, now it's from their living rooms. 

Nicole Chopp, music teacher at CICS West Belden, is making great efforts to support students and teachers during the school closures. In the classroom, Nicole’s approach to teaching music is centered around learning through play, imitation, and experimentation. Since moving to at-home learning, Nicole continues to keep play and experimentation central to her teaching. "While my primary role during at home learning is to support community teachers, I am still providing students with opportunities to have fun with music.” Nicole is engaging students through video, sharing recordings that allow students to continue building skills they’ve started to work on in class, and focusing on independent work for now. “I'm doing my best to provide students with access to content they're familiar with so they can be successful and have fun at home."

Amber Leitsch, Vocal Performance and Piano Teacher at Art In Motion, prioritizes culture in her classroom. Her goal is always to provide a safe and welcoming environment, where her students learn to make music an outlet for creativity, emotion, thought and energy. “Music can be an incredible tool to look into the past, learn about the world inside and outside of one’s own community, communicate with others, make a person’s day and create art," Amber shared.  Now that her classroom has moved to the digital space, she is excited to see the many ways her students are embracing the challenges of e-learning. “My students are so creative, they are coming up with all of these ideas! My biggest goal, outside of using their craft as an outlet for emotions, is to make their voices heard. They are responsible for shaping the world.” Amber’s students are diving deep into music theory, and working on ways to take their practice to the next (digital) level. 

We asked Frank Cademartori, music teacher at CICS Irving Park and Network Enrichment Coordinator, how things have evolved since making the switch to At-Home Learning. “The most exciting and interactive part are the Live Lessons that we host twice daily.” Frank shared, “These are open to all students and we help walk them through a simple activity from origami to a sing-a-long, to paper mache.” The enrichment team at CICS Irving Park is meeting through google hangouts to plan lessons, collaborate, and develop a new schedule for families to join in on every week. They are sharing resources with families, including independent, guided, and scripted activities, through a shared Google Classroom. What does the future hold for CICS Irving Park Enrichment? “We're working on developing smaller, more specialized, "opt-in" classes that students can sign up for. We all think it's more important than ever to give students time and space to be creative and explore!”. 

Historically, during times of crisis, we turn to the arts to lift our spirits, express our feelings, and keep us balanced. We are so grateful to our enrichment teachers for striving to provide balance and a creative outlet for our students (and staff!) during this time of uncertainty. As a strong community, we know that we will get through this together, and we look forward to making music in our schools again soon!