Alamo Heights Classic Guitar and Piano Courses
Whether many realize it or not, music plays an important role at Alamo Heights High School. For instance, the symphony supplies the school musicals with magical tunes from the pit, while choir students serenade us from the stage during annual holiday shows. And how could anyone forget the band’s exuberant halftime shows, a vital contribution to weekly football games? This year, AHHS has decided to expand its musical program by adding classical piano and guitar courses.
“The school decided to offer these courses as another way to advance students’ musical skills,” piano teacher Linda Wilson said. “Music helps people’s thinking. It helps to improve math skills and enhances creativity.”
Wilson and choir teacher Angus McLeod teach the piano class. Classical guitar is under the guidance of McLeod and Rachel Starke, who primarily teaches choir at the junior school and makes a daily trek to instruct at the high school. Both classes are held during fourth period and are open to students from all grade levels. Though the courses are directed toward beginners, more advanced students also participate.
“I have been playing electric and acoustic guitar for five years,” senior Sam Berton says. “I really enjoy being able to have such an interesting class.”
Many students even have experience in other musical fields, which is often beneficial and can facilitate the process of learning a new instrument. “I play the bass and cello,” says junior Andrew Butts. “It helps with the piano class because I already know how to read bass clef notes.”
Classical piano is directed toward students who are interested in learning to play the piano or improving their existing keyboarding skills. During a typical classical piano lesson, students work at an assigned keyboard. Wilson gives brief directions to the more advanced players so they are able to practice at their own level and then instructs beginners for the rest of the class. The classical piano class focuses on many key concepts, including music theory (the study of the structure of music), musical form, ear training and performance.
“Performing is a key component of piano playing because the piano is really a performance instrument,” Wilson says. “The students will be participating in a recital at the end of the year.”
The guitar class shares the same principles as the piano class. The course is designed to teach the student the basic skills needed to play melodies and chords along with learning to read music notation and basic music theory concepts. As with other musical programs, students are able to rent instruments through the school, though they are encouraged to bring their own guitars.
“During a typical class period, everyone gets their guitars in tune,” Berton says. “We run through simple strumming and picking patterns together in order to improve our skills.”
Over time, the teachers hope to add more advanced piano and guitar courses. For now, both classes have received positive reactions from students. “I hope this class will help me achieve proficiency in a new instrument,” says junior Tara Van Belzen. “I’ll be able to learn a skill I can use forever.”
This article was prepared by AHHS journalism students under the direction of journalism teacher Kristin Cade and first appeared in The Hoof Print, the student newspaper.