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Imagine finding out in one class period which students are class leaders, who’s buying into the lesson, and who’s doing their homework. Pioneer High School Orchestra Director Jonathan Glawe said all these answers and more were revealed during Section Pride Day.
Glawe said the annual event is an effort to reduce stress around seating auditions while at the same time building teamwork within sections. “They’ve been preparing really hard on the music and sometimes that can create a lot of tension in their lives and anxiety about that and we want to squash that as much as we can because it’s a collaborative effort,” Glawe said. “So section pride is about you and your section getting together and coming up with a creative way to express yourself not just with music but just with any avenue they want in regards to being creative and collaborating, and it kind of takes the sting out of audition season just a little bit.”
It was a lively hour in the orchestra room, quickly moving from students tuning their instruments by section, to sections performing a variety of skits, back to performing musical excerpts, then a team building exercise with random members of a section required to identify everyone in their group, and finally ending with some orchestra trivia. Throughout the competition sections cheered loudest for themselves, but supported all of their classmates.
The First Violins won the Prideful Participation portion of Section Pride Day with a choreographed dance led by 11th Grader Mira Strauss. She says the event brings together students at a time they could be divided by the competition for first chair. “It really helps for everyone to get to know everyone in your section, especially since I’m towards the front I don’t always see people behind me so I get to know who they are, and it just helps because we have seating auditions coming up so instead of competing with each other, we’re competing together against everyone else,” Strauss said.
This year, Miss Michigan Heather Kendrick served as a guest judge for Section Pride Day for the Concert Orchestra class. Kendrick’s platform focuses on keeping arts in public schools and making sure it’s accessible to all children. She also was a student teacher last year in Pioneer’s orchestra classes so she was excited to see the growth in just one year from the students “Some that were freshmen last year are so excited they’re taking leadership roles as now sophomores and you see that throughout all of the orchestras,” Kendrick said. “I am inspired and motivated being here and seeing how excited they get that they take ownership of their music making, they take ownership of their sections, and that’s so important that’s one of the most foundational aspects and lessons of being in the orchestra is how you contribute, how you contribute to your section and then the greater orchestra.”
The success of Section Pride Day at Pioneer High School is now going to benefit orchestras at other schools. “I started doing this three years ago and then I wrote an article about it last year and it was published in a national publication this year and so now there are 12 other schools around the country that I know of that are doing this event,” Glawe said. “So we’re all going to be talking and providing feedback as we move forward so it’s a fun way to give back to the music community showcasing what we’re doing in Ann Arbor.”
Glawe believes the concept could work in other types of classrooms as well. “In any subject there is an opportunity to be creative, in any subject there’s an opportunity to collaborate, in any subject there’s an opportunity to showcase who you are, and I think this is a great way to do that,” Glawe added. “So everybody in that classroom has something in common, they’re going through the same curriculum, they’re working together, they’re learning how to communicate, and these are all things you do in all the classrooms.”
“That’s a Great Idea!” is a new series in the AAPS District News highlighting teaching practices that are getting positive results in terms of student engagement, teaching and learning, or in some other way making a positive impact in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Our goal is to highlight these practices to shine a spotlight on teachers that are making a difference and also serve as a venue for sharing ideas that work. If you’ve seen or heard of a great idea that you would like included in the series please contact either AAPS District News Editor Jo Mathis or Andrew Cluley.