After the isolation created by the pandemic, many students “craved a place where they can unwind and express themselves,” says David Amos. “And band might be the only class in which they feel that is possible.”
Amos finds creative ways to introduce his students at Heritage Middle School to the many facets of music. He started a nine-week “Careers in Music” class that looks at various non-performing careers in the music industry. “Students learn about music journalists, concert planners, promotors, radio DJs and sound production,” Amos says. The class also explores job descriptions and the necessary training and qualifications for each position. Throughout the course, students “create songs in AB, ABA and verse-chorus form to learn how the music they hear on Spotify and TikTok is made.”
Painesville is located within a primarily middle-class county, but more than 85% of the Painesville City Local Schools’ students qualify for free and reduced lunch. To allow students to participate in band, 70% of students use school-owned instruments. In spite of these challenges, the PCLS band program is the third largest in the county.
More than half of the district’s population is Hispanic and Latino, and a quarter of the students are identified as English language learners. Amos works hard to include “music pieces that are comprised of folk melodies representative of the cultures in my classroom.”
For the 2021 winter concert, his band performed a piece called “Kwanzaa Celebration” that included a Liberian folk melody and the famous spiritual “Kum ba yah.” Amos and his students looked at the cultures and traditions represented in the music while learning to perform the songs. “I would love to see more middle school repertoire written by composers of color or queer-identified composers. Authentic representation of diverse individuals and the cultures they represent is extremely important to the growth of all students,” he says.
Amos always finds ways to “push students to be a better version of themselves as an individual and in music,” according to one of his students.
“Remember, music is worth it. … While music is the content we teach, our first goal must be to teach students the skills they need to be successful in this changing world,” Amos says.