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In your first six months at RA, what events or experiences have stood out to you?
The Upper School trip to Frost Valley, New York, was a new experience for me. You get to know the kids on a new level, see them being themselves and watch friendships actively form. In the classroom, you see pieces of it; on the trip, that mask comes off. Other than that, moments in the classroom! It is special any time a student volunteers to take a risk—for example, “Let me take this solo.” How many instruments do you play? I play six instruments: drums, guitar, bass, piano, voice, and ukulele. I started on the drums. For songwriting, I use the ukulele and guitar. What are your hobbies outside of work? I am part of an R&B pop band and drum for an artist in Brooklyn. We focus on recording, but also play live performances once or twice a month. As a former employee of Ridgefield High School, I am connected to alumni— music majors who have bands—and will substitute for drums, bass, or guitar. In the spring and summer, I am a longboarder; I find empty country roads and go downhill. To wind down, I play video games. I also enjoy growing and pickling food.
How do you prepare students for performances behind the scenes?
Picking songs is one of the hardest parts because what we perform has the potential to impact people greatly. I sift through a lot of music and try to balance the kids’ taste in music with positive and constructive messages. Grades 4-8 suggested over 150 songs for our last performance. I try to choose different genres, and we talk about why the songs were chosen. Then, the rehearsal process begins, which is what you would imagine: warm up, drill, and zoom in on different sections, as students grow attached to the songs. If you want students to get up on stage and be enthusiastic,it’s important to not overwork and burn out while practicing the same song for months. It’s all about balance. At RA, I have the freedom to incorporate student accompaniments into performances, which has received positive feedback from students and parents, and inspired other students to get involved. In our spring concert, seven violinists will accompany the song Viva La Vida as an ensemble. Once we get to the show, everyone is nervous. I try to be calm and not ask for calmness, knowing I’ve done everything I can. There are no reminders that can help; it’s about what has been consistently embedded through practice. The performances have been great so far!

Why is music an important part of the MS/US experience?
On a scientific level, research shows that music helps kids’ ability to synthesize and retain information throughout the day. Artistic activity has a way of allowing information to get processed, instead of building up and overflowing. Music is also cathartic and a mood regulator. I hope music shows students that life is more than grades, career readiness, and high school readiness. Music offers variety and shows the vastness of what life can be about.
Music classes offer an opportunity for students to break the perceived structure and build something of their own. Students can take ownership over what they can do in a classroom where there is no rubric for right or wrong. It is an environment that is not the model.
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