Festivals to Build Community: The First Ever GCAA Music Festival!

Pictures of guitar class during Music festival

Korissa Smith, Staff Reporter

There is no question that finding a sense of community has been a troubling issue this school year.
The music department, specifically, has expressed the concern of trying to keep students motivated to practice their art while trying to replicate the community-based environment students are used to.
Middle and high school orchestra and piano teacher, Dr. Jeff Barudin, has talked about the trouble of coming up with different ideas to keep music students playing while remote learning,
“[We are] adding aspects to our teaching, when it comes to creating performance opportunities for our children, trying to think about ways for us to rehearse, ways for us to perform, ways to kind of have students develop their music skills but in a format that is very isolated.”

Pictures of music festival (close look at adjudicators) (Mr. Vaccaro)

Though difficult, this year has encouraged much reinvention and creativity.
For April 9th, 2021, marked the very first “Annual Music festival” for the entire music division.
The festival would be organized in a “masterclass format” in which students would prepare a solo piece to perform in-front of adjudicators to be criticized and given feedback on.
As the music festival is beginning, the choir teacher, Patrick Mattia, informs the students that the goal for this event is for students to…
“[T]ake [the feedback] and learn from it. [T]he benefit of [this] is that in a ‘masterclass format’ everyone else is watching in your class and so you get to learn from each other as well!”
One of the main motivators for this event to bring back the sense of togetherness that the music department may have lost through the pandemic and virtual learning,
“One of the driving forces in us creating the festival [is] we wanted an avenue for students to do more than just what they’re doing in their house. We wanted an opportunity for students performing to experience each other’s playing, potentially comment on or just hear students performing, being able to have other people hear their performance, it’s something that is taken for granted.”
Music students have felt this goal and have very much appreciated this experience. Not just for the sense of togetherness but for the helpful advice given.
Junior Ava Irlbeck-Whitson, says that she found the festival very beneficial,
“Yes, I got [plenty of] helpful information from my adjudicator,” Whitson said. “He taught me a new way to practice my scales in thirds. This allowed me to have a more deeper understanding of all of my scales in general”
However, even with all the benefits of the festival she, along with the teachers, felt that it would have been better if it took place in-person because that would have established a better sense of togetherness and better learning.
“I would really love [it] if the adjudicators are able to come in person and critique us,” Whitson said. “I think the best way to learn and be able to fully obtain information is a hands on learning style where you and the teacher are in the same room”
Regardless of some of the misfortunes of not being able to physically be together for the first music festival experience, students and staff enjoyed the event and hope that they can do it again next year.

Pictures of music festival (Mr. Vaccaro)

“We don’t think of this as a replacement for solo and ensemble,” said Barudin. “We just see this as an additional opportunity for students to, like I said before, come together and celebrate music as a group of like-minded people.”