As we enter our last semester of the year and the last semester for our seniors, I am reminded of how art functions as a way of breaking boundaries. Over the course of the last semester, my students have learned how to analyze and ultimately appreciate several genre’s of music, most of which they had never heard prior. They now use language like “timbre” and “texture” in their descriptions of music. It is impressive to hear musical vocabulary of such a high caliber at the high school level. I’ve played some of their favorites by artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole and have asked them to make connections between the instrumental accompaniment, rhythm, and lyrics in order to come to a deeper understanding of the message the artists’ are conveying.
This semester we are delving into the different periods of music history in order to come to a better understanding of how the Western world hears music. It’s wonderful to see our students come to love works of composers like Desprez, Mozart, Haydn, and become avid listeners of Puccini and Debussy. Through our art classes at “The Verb,” our students learn to be well rounded by combining their love of contemporary music with their appreciation for standard repertoire. Art provides them the intellectual tools needed to engage a world unlike their own by bridging that cultural divide that often is created between the world associated with Classical music and “Pop” music. By doing this, the students realize the validity of their experience and feel confident in knowing that they belong everywhere whether it is Puccini at the Ahmanson, Stravinsky at the Disney Concert Hall, a Sinatra celebration at “The Bowl”, or a rock concert at Staples. They are secure in eating at a 5 star restaurant in Beverly Hills or getting a burger at Hawkins down the street from “The Verb.” Being exposed to art gives them the confidence to know that they belong everywhere because they are men with and for others.