Emily Meyerson, the K-12 Music and Drama Educator for North Baltimore Local Schools, isn’t afraid to try anything to improve her program. “I came into an established program in 2010, where things had been done a certain way for so long, and I was too green to immediately shake things up,” she says. “After I had a couple of years under my belt and gained a little confidence, I knew that major change was necessary in order for this program to thrive.”
Meyerson started with a huge revamp of the middle school program. “I went from 50 kids in the middle school choir to seven, which was terrifying,” she says. “I leaned on my administration for support, and the elementary principal at the time suggested the creation of an elementary show choir as a feeder program.”
Over the next several years, her numbers grew and she started to see the fruits of her labor. Meyerson now has a strong middle and high school choir program, and she continues to use the elementary show choir as a great feeder program to get strong singers involved early.
Another change she made was switching her pedagogy to Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB), a concept the art teacher introduced her to that focuses on:
Meyerson and the art teacher took the plunge together and incorporated this new methodology. “Switching to a TAB pedagogy completely revitalized my classroom, the way I teach and my students,” she says.
When students come into her music class, they begin with a mini-lesson or demo that usually lasts about five to seven minutes, then they are free to explore and create in whatever ways they want, within certain guidelines. “In the visual art world, TAB studios are offered by medium so you might have drawing, painting and sculpture studios,” she explains. “In music, I wanted to do the same thing, offering the same type of choices. Some of my favorite studios are boomwhackers, keyboards, ukuleles, electric guitars, electric drums, note knacks, electronic music (on iPads) and the recording studio that my custodians built for me in the back of my classroom.”
Meyerson acts as facilitator, helping students work through whatever problems that may arise as they work toward project completion of their choice. “Sometimes, it’s absolutely chaotic, and at any given time, instead of creating one lesson plan for a whole class, I could be working on 25 different things with 25 students,” she laughs. “We’ve got things in place to help with that though, including a check-in system with specific points they need to touch base with me, and a list of questions to keep them thinking, reflecting and acting like musicians.”
Meyerson also created a swing choir to push and stretch students who were ready for a bigger challenge, as well as a high school guitar program to reach students who weren’t in choir or band or those who wanted additional musical outlets. She started with a two-level class, Guitar I in the fall and Guitar II in the spring. It was a huge success and soon Guitar III was added, followed by Guitar IV this year. “I am super excited about this new course! It features more advanced guitar techniques, electric bass and culminates with a final project that will be writing, recording and producing an original song,” she says.