Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Music theory class provides challenge to EHS students

November 21, 2007

Inside the band and choir room of Eudora High School, is a room within a room, tucked away like a Russian nesting doll. While the students outside the room take part in the physical act of making music, the students inside the room go over the mental aspects, discussing objectionable parallels.

There is a moment when music theory teacher Mac Knight breaks down parallel octaves, and the students further realize the intricacies that exist within music.

It is a "whoa" moment.

"There are people that get to this point in college (music theory classes) who say 'I'm going to be a mathematician or a mechanical engineer because I don't want to deal with this anymore because this stuff is too challenging,'" Knight tells the class.

Knight is not far from the mark in comparing the level of difficulty to what would be found in a college course.

"I think of this as college prep because the text book we're using is a college text book," he said.

The class consists of four students, two who took the class last year and now are in advanced music theory and two who are in their first year.

As the class progresses through the year, students begin to write their own compositions, as Chris Cannon and Josh Blaisdell already have done.

"They can write whatever they want as long as they can find someone to play it," Knight said. "This class is probably geared more towards independence because the material lends itself to that and because they're creating things they have a little more freedom."

Challenging material notwithstanding, the students remain engaged and realize that what they're learning will make them better musicians.

"I'm a musician outside of school, too," Cannon, who also plays in a band outside of school, said. "When I started making music in the first place, it was a lot different than how I do it now.

"One day we actually went home with the chord progression that we were taught to go through and we made a song to that progression that turned out to be a pretty good song.

Whitney Box, who plays the bass clarinet and during Thursday's class meeting was analyzing a piece of music written by Bach, also values the principles she has learned.

"In jazz band we do a lot of soloing, and it (the class) helps with knowing the scales," she said. "And when someone will play something for me, I can pick it up just like that and figure out the notes. It's just a lot easier to play now, learning how this all works."

That certainly is evident, as Box was chosen for the Northeast Kansas Music Educators Association Honor Band, making first chair for the third straight year.

Knight almost exclusively references classical music throughout the class, which might seem to be problematic in a world where the stars of pop music rarely are musicians, but Knight said that doesn't cause a problem.

"We do a lot of classical stuff and that is what we base a lot of the stuff that we're doing on," he said. "They don't realize just how often they hear this kind of music."

In fact, the class has changed what Box listens to.

"I have been listening to more classical music," she said. "He (Knight) was talking about how a lot of the songs that we've been listening today came from these original scores and they've put them in cartoons, and looking for those and listening to those makes you think about all the stuff that we've learned."

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