The Magical World of Musician

December 08, 2011 by Bill Ivey

I used to think making music was magic. I guess, after doing it, I still do. – Lisa Bastarache. ’99 (from her yearbook page)

I will never forget the first time I saw Dar Williams in concert. She opened for the Indigo Girls at the Mullins Center at UMass way back in the mid-90’s, and they invited her to play one of the encores. Alone on stage with her guitar, she transfixed the approximately 8,000 people in attendance with heartbreaking images of a relationship entering and eventually, tentatively, emerging from a “February” period. The song instantly became one of my all-time favorites, and I bought her CD “Mortal City” the very next day.

Filed Under: Dar Williams, Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, All-Girls, On Education, Boarding and Day, Rock Band, All Girls Education, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, performing, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Listening through the Wall: Middle School Select Chorus Auditions and the Spirit of Our School

September 19, 2011 by Guest Faculty Bloggers

I can’t see the students on the other side of the wall from my office, but I can imagine the scene that I’m hearing as I listen. The girls sit in a loosely formed circle, some perched on stools, some sliding out of a chair, others with feet firmly planted on the ground. One student is silently shaking her head, refusing to take her turn. Her fellow students, some who have already auditioned and others anxiously waiting for their chance, cheer her on. They offer words of support, chant her name and talk about how their experiences weren’t so bad. “Once you do it you’ll be glad you did!” “It’s not that bad!” “You can do it! Really!”

This could be any class, in any subject. But I am sitting in my classroom next door, eavesdropping on one of Tony Lechner’s vocal classes. It is Middle School Select Chorus auditions, and each girl has come prepared to share a snippet of a song with the group. The returning eighth grade students have done this before. I can hear familiar works by Adele and Rihanna through the wall, and can pick out some voices that I know well. After all, some of these shortened songs I’m hearing today shocked us last year when performed in their entirety (I still brag to my non-teaching friends about witnessing Charlotte’s Spearth Day performance in May). Now I am hearing unfamiliar voices coming through with unfamiliar songs and I assume they belong to the new seventh graders hoping to join the group.

Filed Under: Middle School, singing, All-Girls, Boarding School, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, chorus, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

The Power of Students

June 30, 2011 by Bill Ivey

Like many teachers, I tend to deflect credit away from myself and toward the people who are doing the actual learning. Working with middle schoolers, especially girls, I can make a strong argument for why I should do that. Middle schoolers are seeking to define and take their place in a grown-up world and have to feel they are agents of their own destiny to do so effectively. Girls in particular (or the "girl-brained" at any rate) are more likely to give credit elsewhere, building a stronger relationship in the process but diminishing their self-concept as strong people making their mark in the world. I want to work to counteract that effect. And besides, let's be honest, as I once told the entire school, "There is no good teaching without the power of students."

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, On Education, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Tribute to Performing Arts Teacher Cyndee Meese

June 11, 2011 by Bill Ivey

Way way back in 1987, my second year of the school, we decided to break with tradition and close the year with a musical revue. A teacher who was going to be rejoining us the following year after a brief leave of absence was put in charge of it, and everyone told me to expect greatness from Cyndee Meese and from the kids. She asked me to help out by choosing, arranging, and selecting and rehearsing the performers for three medleys representing women in rock in the 60's, 70's and 80's. After sitting in on auditions, we agreed that Jen C. would be Laura Nyro, Deanie A. would be Stevie Nicks, and Sabrina P. would be Cyndi Lauper. We put together a faculty band to accompany the students and began preparing for the show. Cyndee's impact was felt immediately in two ways. One, that the kids were indeed headed for greatness and beyond Jen's tear-inducing cry of "Eli's a-comin'. Woah, you better hide your heart," Deanie's gorgeous lilt as she sang "Shattered with words impossible to follow," and Sabrina's gutsy and brassy affirmation that "Girls just wanna have fun," there were many memorable performances. Cyndee's second impact was more literal; as I was accompanying another song on piano, I was having trouble getting just the right sound, so she slid onto the bench to show me what she wanted, bumping me in the process so I slid right off the end onto the floor.

Filed Under: Teaching, Alumnae, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, drama, Education

CD Collection

May 31, 2011 by Bill Ivey

I placed an order for a CD today. On the face of it, not a particularly compelling event, although increasingly unusual in these days of iTunes and mp3s. This CD is special, however. It includes six songs written, arranged, and performed by Zoë, one of the six-year seniors.

I remember her as a seventh grader, seated on the stage behind an old keyboard, accompanying herself on an original song she had written for that year’s seventh grade play. Lurking in the shadows was a character who would steal that song, present it as her own, and attempt to use her minions to face down any possible challengers. But in my memory, it was one of those moments when you suddenly develop tunnel vision and it is as though a spotlight illuminates one person only and the rest of the world ceases to exist. One of the smallest kids in the class, Zoë nonetheless brought a simplicity and a bravery to that performance that commanded attention.

Filed Under: School Happenings, songwriting, All Girls Education, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Every Single Day

May 26, 2011 by Bill Ivey

The general consensus is that this year's Talent Show was perhaps the best in recent memory. There was over an hour of acts - mostly singing and dancing. After the school's Big Band and Upper School Rock Band opened up the show, one of the next performers was one of the seventh graders, singing Adele's current hit "Rolling in the Deep" and accompanying herself on piano. Unfortunately, there were issues with her microphone, and she ended up deciding to stop. Greg Snedeker, our instrumental music teacher, got her set up with a new mic, and, to cheers and applause and cries of her name, she started in again from the beginning as though nothing had ever gone wrong.

Filed Under: School Happenings, On Education, Performing Arts, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School