Thursday, October 3, 2019

Veazie Middle School Band on News Center Maine

Check out our awesome Middle School Band students:

VCS Middle School Band

VCS Music Program featured on local Classic Rock radio station I-95!

Please check out the article about our music program from Classic Rock radio station I-95:

Veazie Community School Seeking Music Instrument Donations

Veazie Community School To Start Modern Band Program

I am thrilled to share the news that as part of our excellent Flex Friday program, we will be starting up a Rock Band flex. This Rock Band class will be based upon the Modern Band philosophy as promoted by Little Kids Rock, the largest nonprofit organization that promotes Modern Band in schools ( By offering this Modern Band program, VCS will be one of the first schools in Maine (one of only 25) and most likely the smallest school in the state to offer a Modern Band program.

The philosophy of Modern Band is that music can be learned as a child would learn a language. A child speaks a language long before they learn how to read and write it, but much music instruction has traditionally involved decoding notation, understanding note values, locations of pitches, etc before making a single sound. Through the use of iconic notation (pictures, shapes, and numbers), modern band allows students to begin playing with peers as soon as possible and thereby removes the potential barrier of traditional notation.

You can probably tell that I am excited to start this form of music instruction—it really contains all the elements that I love about music education—popular music, learner-centered instruction, inclusion, and equity.

Popular music- I have always had a love of many different styles of music. By studying popular styles (rock, pop, reggae, hip hop, rap, etc) from the last 60-70 years, students can learn only 3 or 4 chord shapes and be able to play thousands of songs. The styles of music selected are informed by student interest, and can relate to their life experiences.
Learner-centered instruction- Teachers College, where I did my graduate studies, is one of the leading institutions for student-centered or learner-centered instruction. It flips the traditional music instruction of teacher-directed instruction and puts more responsibility on the students. The end goal of Modern Band is that students begin as a larger group to learn the chord shapes and rhythm patterns, but then branch out into smaller, student-led “rock bands” of about 5-8 students, with the music teacher in the role of advisor. It sounds ironic, but the goal of the teacher is to no longer be needed. The variety of music that can be performed is wide, and can be student-selected (similar to how students are already involved in selecting band and chorus concert repertoire). We may find that we have one small group of students that wants to focus on punk rock, while another prefers funk/R&B, etc.

Inclusion- Our school already does a fabulous job of involving all interested students in music regardless of learning differences or ability to acquire an instrument. The Modern Band approach of learning rhythm by listening, learning chords by shape, and using pictures instead of traditional notation opens the opportunity to learn to students of diverse learning styles like visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. With enough community involvement, we plan to acquire enough instruments for every interested student to be able to play in the Modern Band program. See below for how you can help with this project!

Equity- The modern band philosophy levels the playing field for all students. Students with strong listening skills will be equally as successful in this program as students with strong reading skills. Music can be adapted and modified depending on students’ comfort levels and past experience. By offering the program as part of Flex Friday, no student has to make special transportation arrangements or meet certain academic requirements to join (beyond being in 3rd grade or above; the grade level requirement is simply because larger instruments would make it more difficult for students younger than 3rd grade).

Another wonderful aspect of Modern Band is that it will complement our already strong band and chorus programs. A student could play trumpet in regular band, sing in chorus, and then decide to try electric bass during rock band flex. What they learn in each of these programs will enhance their experience in the others. We also hope that students that have not tried band or chorus will be interested in participating in the rock band flex. There is no experience needed, and, as stated above, reading music is not a requirement.

It is our hope that a lot of students decide to try this flex option. Please spread the word that we are still accepting donations of additional guitars, electric basses, drums, keyboards, mixers, and amplifiers. Instruments and equipment can be dropped off at Veazie Community School, 1040 School Street during office hours, Monday-Friday 8AM-3PM. Donors should leave their name and address with the instrument in order to receive a thank you note.

Anyone that does not have an instrument to give, but would like to support the program can sponsor an interested student with a monetary donation. Sharing the gift of music is one way of continuing the passion for the arts that you may have experienced in your life.

Several local media outlets have been covering the development of this Flex option and I will share stories as they are published! It is an exciting time for the arts at Veazie Community School!