Earlier this month, Pawling schools held a series of festive winter concerts displaying the musical talents of students from across the district. The performances featured students of all ages from the Elementary School through High School, and helped to showcase the district’s continually improving music programs.
The winter concerts began with a pair of performances held at Pawling High School, featuring third-grade students on December 4, and fourth graders on December 6. “The much anticipated winter and spring concerts are always enjoyed by all,” explains Elementary School Principal Dr. Debra Kirkus. “Students perform an evening concert for their families; they also perform a day time concert for the rest of our school.” The concert would give students the chance to demonstrate their musical abilities and show what they have learned from the school’s music instructors. “Musical selections are chosen at the start of the school year and students begin rehearsing,” says Brianne Chasanoff, who teaches vocal and general music at the Elementary School. “Some students may not find their first love to be singing, however, they may discover their talents to be in playing percussion instruments,” she adds. “I find it very rewarded to be a part of their musical journey in helping each child discover their hidden talents and help them grow as musicians. Every student has an important part in making their concert successful, and each part that is performed adds another element to each song. The process is very exciting for both me and the students.”
On December 5, fifth- and sixth-grade students would get their chance to perform, followed by seventh and eighth graders on December 12. Under the instruction of Alicia Nace and Ben Bardenett, the Middle School music program has grown to include a jazz band, new general music offerings, and the incorporation of new instruments, such as guitars. “Concert time is always an exciting time for the students,” says Nace. “We work really hard starting from the first week of school to be prepared for our concerts. We only meet as a full band class every other day and a pull out lesson once every six days. For me, every concert is a new adventure! We as a department, or better yet a team, work hard to help the students demonstrate their knowledge and hard work for the past few months. It’s all about the students and we work to showcase them.”
Finally, the winter concerts would conclude with the performance of the Pawling High School band and chorus on December 11. Under new band teacher Josh Barrow and vocal teacher Hannah Geiling, the PHS music programs have been constantly expanding, in both size and opportunities for students to play and perform.
The concert series was well attended and received a great deal of positive feedback. “All the music teachers have been working together to clarify expectations, raise rigor, choose exciting and challenging repertoire, and give the students opportunities to access performance opportunities and interact with professionals, whether as colleagues, as in the Falling for Pawling oratorio last year, or as adjudicators, as with the many festivals and competitions in which the students participate,” says Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Kim Fontana. “The District and school buildings have also been working to support the music program. One way is providing instruments for all families who disclose their economic hardship for this purpose.”