For the first time in the school’s history, Whiting High School will be implementing a music program in the fall. The vision for the program, shared between music teacher Meghan Goodner and Principal Scott Shoop, is to meet kids where they are and watch them transform.
“We’re really excited to do this because music is so important to our kids,” Shoop said. “We just want to enrich their understanding and their love for music, so they are (both) lifelong.”
Whiting is an alternative school part of Albany County School District No. 1. Goodner said the program she’s pictured will not be the traditional school pep band, orchestra and choir setup. She said she wants to “build a music program that is specific to the needs and inspirations of the population here at Whiting.”
“That’s the vision, taking that non-traditional curricular approach that still addresses music literacy, music history, music’s impact culturally, all those things,” Goodner said, “but packaging it in a way I think is a little more modern, maybe, a little more approachable and relevant to kids.”
Areas of focus include guitar, voice and piano along with a modern music class, which could feature genres like the blues, alternative rock or “some metal, if the kids can convince me,” Goodner said with a chuckle.
Another class, called Music Now, will connect students with local musicians to learn about performing live, writing music and playing instruments. Both Shoop and Goodner said working with the community would be key to creating the program they want.
“Not to sound corny about this, but music really does come alive when there’s a real human playing an instrument instead of me putting it on a smartboard,” Goodner said. “Just having that social experience of finding out who somebody is, broadening our community, that’s been very powerful.”
Goodner is finishing up the school year as a music teacher at Rock River School, and she said she enjoys bringing students opportunities that may otherwise “fall through the cracks.” Her time there also shared a lot of the same goals and motivations to “meet kids where they are and take them further.”
“The most transformative, joyful things that I’ve seen are just offering these students an opportunity to experience music,” she said. “That starts with relationships first, it starts with building trust, building credibility … and honoring what kind of learner they are, and what kind of human they are and taking that raw material and growing it into something beautiful.”
The opportunity for the program presented itself after teachers for some electives at the school retired, and Shoop said he was “able to put two part-time positions together to offer a full-time position.”
“We really wanted something that we could develop a strong connection with kids and community,” Shoop said. “Of course, the arts — and especially music — is transformative.”
Classes are set to start in the fall, with opportunities available to any student in the school so long as their schedules can fit the elective.
The program is not without its challenges. Shoop said the school has no plans to ask for additional funding from the school district, instead trying “to do this organically.”
Instruments are the next big hurdle, and Goodner said they’d welcome any donated guitars, other instruments or musicians’ time.
“Hopefully there’s some community excitement,” Goodner said. “People have already started to come forward to ask how they can help, and in what ways, and that warms my heart.”