South High’s Music Program has been everywhere from Missouri to the Mall of America, spreading messages of hope and strength throughout the country! But what are some of the effects of music closer to home, for the students and teachers of South High? What are some of the core concepts that the program is based on?
Some of the core beliefs for the music department are “providing enjoyable and enriching opportunities in music to students of any race, ethnicity, cultural background, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical ability, language, or political view.”
Eric Sayre, the band teacher at South, explains that these core beliefs mean, “Anything you value is up to you but what we really value is you.” Laurie Meyers, the choir teacher, hopes that people understand that this means, “no matter who you are in the audience, you can see yourself reflected on the stage.”
Students find that this statement of inclusivity is beneficial for the program. Jordan Dotson, a tenth grader in orchestra expressed,“We [the students] are really open and accepting in the program and… no one is a jerk, everyone likes each other. “Irena Wilson, another tenth grader in band interprets this as meaning,” that everyone has an equal chance to do music, that everyone can perform music no matter who they are, what they identify with, where they come from. Music is something that can bring people together and make everyone feel welcome.”
Meyers and Sayre both hope that the skills they teach reach out beyond only being able to sing every pitch correctly, playing a perfect B flat scale, or knowing all the solfege in a song. They hope that students learn skills that you can only get from a musical experience. “A lot of the things we preach here are finding your people, finding your community and trusting humans,” Sayre explained. [I hope] my students leave knowing how to find and build community and understanding how to be a productive trusting person in the world and I think music does that in an enjoyable way through the struggles of making music, you can learn those lessons.”
Both Meyers and Sayre, through their time at South, have both noticed massive changes in students personalities and actions. One of the changes Sayre expressed was the change in the empathy of student. “The change of empathy. They seem to understand by their senior year how truly their emotions and actions affect others and I think that it’s wildly exciting,” Sayre explained. Meyers indicated, “There’s a sense in pride in… South Music. There’s a path that is really visible to the outside world, there’s a place for everyone.” She also talked about the the influence the students have on each other, “You’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before you and you’re building the legacies and traditions of ten years.”
For students, both Dotson and Wilson express that they have changed in positive ways. “Last year I was pretty quiet.” Dotson explained. She’s also also found ways of: “getting more ideas and seeing other people’s ideas and perspectives.” Later on Wilson stated, “I feel like I’ve been more focused in certain aspects. Like I know when I get my instrument out, I am focused on music and I can just kind of zone in and block out everything else except for music.” It’s more than obvious that music has a huge affect on students.
As for aspects that make music hopeful, Meyers explained, “Lyrics are really important and they help with adding to an experience and if they’re not meaningful it’s not worth spending all that class time on it. Lyrics absolutely have the potential to connect with the human condition that we all share. No matter what our facades are on the outside we’ve all experienced loss, we’ve all experienced grief, we’ve all experienced sadness, and music can connect us in a safe way to that. I also think that the rehearsal cycle is a really good metaphor for the messiness that life gives us.”
All in all, the South High Music program works relentlessly to make sure everyone feels welcome. Sayre explains, “A lot of the things we preach here are finding your people, finding you community and trusting humans… my students leave knowing how to find and build community and understanding how to be a productive trusting person in the world and I think music does that in an enjoyable way through the struggles of making music, you can learn those lessons.”