Music and Drama News

Hello Renaissance community! My name is Randal Pierce, and I’ve recently joined the staff at both the Renaissance and Endeavour schools as the music and drama teacher. The last few weeks, I’ve had a wonderfully warm introduction to the staff and students here and am gradually getting to know their individual talents and sparkling personalities. Here’s a little about me and about what to expect as the two programs develop this year.  

I’m a Shelburne native and did my music studies first at Oberlin and then McGill University’s Schulich School of Music in piano performance. Since then, I’ve been back in Vermont teaching and directing musical theater at the Flynn, Lost Nation Theater, through BCA and will be music directing UVM’s production of “Spring Awakening” this season. I’m excited to bring energy and artistic knowledge from these experiences into the school.

In Drama, we’ve started out with movements and actions based in animal behavior, and I’ve been amazed by the detailed knowledge about species that students have brought in to these exercises by the time they are in Third Grade. With animal and human characters, the Fourth and Fifth graders have been developing, we’ve been staging short student-derived scenes based in silent gestures or actions involving problems and resolutions, needs and adaptation, and actions and consequences. These are followed by students’ discussion of what took place, what was effective, and constructive suggestions of content and clarity of display. Students should expect to delve further into distinctive characters motivations in the situations and environments they encounter as well as ways in which different interactions affect a narrative as we prepare for a theater-piece in the spring.

In Music, we’ve established the foundation for building rhythmic and melodic skills and have started to learn songs this week after the evaluation of their current abilities. With rhythm, we’ve used our own bodies to “thump, tap and clap” and feel the basic elements of pulse in common groups and cycles. When students are prepared in their knowledge and behavior, percussion will be introduced to build on that internalized experience. With teaching melody, I use elements of Hungarian master-composer and pedagogue Zoltan Kodaly’s method, which has been extremely influential in North American early music education. From that, I teach solfege (do, re, mi) with hand signs and positions indicating the direction and sounds relative to specific melodic movement within the diatonic scale (often used as the “major scale”). This develops the ability to match-pitch internally and externally, learn the sound of common scale degrees in relation to each other (more effective in our culture than emphasizing the development of “perfect pitch” I’ve found), and directly experience how melodies in Western Culture gravitate towards certain notes within a given tonal center. All of that might sound abstract or secondary at this age, but they are the skills that lead to a full and informed experience of the music of some of our shared cultures and the abilities to sing, play and eventually make it themselves.

Feel free to be in touch as the year progresses, and I’m sure and hopeful that you know that each of your children have great potential in the performing arts.