“It’s the joy of making beautiful things.”
That’s how Bellevue High Band Co-Director Will Harvey described the experience of teaching students – some of whom have no previous musical training – to make music together in the steel drum ensemble and guitar ensemble classes.
“I had some experience on guitar and I wanted to learn more about it,” said Senior Lily Henein about why she signed up for the guitar ensemble class at Bellevue High. “My favorite part is learning new music because I don’t usually have much time to do that. This class gives me the time.”
Harvey and Band Director Edd George offer these two classes in addition to three concert bands, two jazz bands, marching band, percussion ensemble, drumline, and piano. The ensemble classes are each a semester long and welcome all students, no musical background required.
“We have kids who are seniors who have eight years of music in the Bellevue School District and we have people who have never picked up an instrument and they are all in the same class, and they are making beautiful music together,” Harvey said.
Harvey and George split teaching the various courses. For them, the steel drum and guitar classes are about sharing their passion for music and making music accessible to all students.
“For instrumental music these two classes allow for an awesome experience,” Harvey said. “Playing in the group is just so cool. That is what we are really after with these classes.”
In both the steel drum and guitar classes students dive in and begin playing together on day one and throughout the courses students have several different opportunities to perform for the school, in evening concerts, and for regional and state contests.
“The growth is really tangible,” George said.
He went on to explain that they start off teaching by rote – finding the notes and playing them with a set rhythm – and then progressively learning to read the notes, rhythms, and traditional music notation.
“On the first day they can play a very simple three-part song with a lot of expression very beautifully,” Harvey said of his guitar students. “The success of the guitar and steel drum classes is that you don’t have to wait for the good stuff to happen. The good stuff happens every day.”
The focus is on students thinking about the sound they are making – the tone, the dynamics, and the emotion of a piece.
“There’s something about seeing kids come together when the music finally sounds right and everything is clicking,” George said. “In my steel drum class you can see the expression on their faces, see their smiles. It’s a great feeling.”
The guitar ensemble class this spring is Senior Josh Casas’ first music class.
“I like the whole ensemble deal where everyone is going through a piece of music together,” Casas said. “It’s great when you finally get it all linked and everyone is playing and doing their part and you are doing your part. In our music there are three parts to a song, and the actual song is more than the sum of its parts.”