Meet Javan Bowden, TNCS’s New Music Director!

Just in time for the upcoming (and highly anticipated) annual Winter Performance, Immersed got the opportunity to interview Music Director Javan Bowden. For the 2019–2020 school year at The New Century School, it was time for former TNCS Music Director Martellies Warren to pass the conducting baton. Although it was hard to say goodbye to our longtime friend, in true Mr. Warren fashion, he made sure he was leaving the superb music program he built in very capable hands. So let’s meet the one person who was right for the job!

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Mr. Bowden and Mr. Warren have more in common than being music educators. First of all, they are both from Alabama, although they did not know each other there (Mr. Bowden’s hometown is Birmingham). Secondly, they are both vocalists for Anthony Brown & Group TherApy. “In 2017, I began an internship program with Anthony Brown’s music label,” explains Mr. Bowden. “I was pretty much his personal assistant and his road assistant for about 6 months. Then, in December of that year he needed another tenor to fill in for their annual Christmas concert. So, I sat in for that, and since then I’ve been a part of the group.”

Musical Talent

Mr. Bowden further explains that, although he is a tenor in the gospel and pop worlds, he is a lyric baritone in the classical realm. (For what that means in practice as well as to hear a sample recording, click “Talk Like an Opera Geek.”)

And, his musical talents don’t stop with voice:

Originally, in the 4th grade, I started my music journey on the trumpet when my dad put one in my hand. I kept playing classical trumpet, and I wound up going to the only fine arts high school in Alabama, Alabama School of Fine Arts. After graduating, I attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where I double minored in classical trumpet and classical voice. In my sophomore year, I let go of the trumpet because it became a little too hectic to juggle both voice and trumpet.

Mr. Bowden still resides in DC, traveling to Baltimore to teach TNCS students on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of his workweek consists of his position as data collector in the education department of the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. “There, we survey middle school kids before and after seeing a music or a theater performance to measure their sense of empathy, their consciousness,” described Mr. Bowden.

If it sounds like Mr. Bowden is a bit of a Renaissance Man, there’s more. At university, he also pursued a music business major that included courses in accounting, economics, law, management of behavior, and various other classes related to the music industry (such as with a music label or as an arts administrator). “It kind of gave me the option to be a performer or handle what’s happening behind the stage,” he said. He certainly uses this career versatility to advantage now!

Road to Education

So just how did he wind up teaching music at TNCS? “Mr. Warren extended the invitation to me,” recounts Mr. Bowden. “He knew that I was looking to expand my passion for music, and he seemed to believe that I could fill his shoes.” Prior to TNCS, Mr. Bowden subbed with Montgomery County schools as an art, English, and music instructor. “Now that I’m solely a music instructor, it has given me the opportunity to brush up on a lot of things that I learned throughout my years and reciprocate everything that was given to me to someone else—that’s really what I always wanted to do, pass along the art and love of music. Someone cared about me enough to cultivate that in me when I was a young kid, and that’s why I’m at this point. I kind of just want to give that back,” he said.

He also wasn’t necessarily interested in being an “extreme performer,” meaning that’s all he would ever do. Music majors basically have only two options, he explained, either that or teaching music, and, as he said, spreading a love of music in kids is important to him. If you’ve ever noticed how TNCS students swarm about him, then you know he is definitely giving them that. He is always smiling, and he developed a rapport with his students from the get-go.

At TNCS

“I enjoy teaching at TNCS,” he said:

It reminds me a lot of the high school I went to in terms of the many different cultures here and all of the languages spoken. It gives me another sense of why I am the way I that am, as accepting of a lot of different types of people. Even though I’m from Alabama, and it’s kind of a conservative state, I was given the opportunity to be in a space where I was accepted, and TNCS resembles that. I feel comfortable here.

His primary goal for the music program is to increase TNCS students’ “music literacy.” “I want to teach the kids to be able to be presented with a piece of music; read it; and identify the key signature, the tempo, and the clef,” he said. “It’s one thing to be orally aware of what’s happening, but it’s another thing to be able to analyze a piece of music on a page. That’s what I was brought up on, and a lot of those fundamentals are dying out. It’s like with reading and writing—you have to know how to write in order to read and read in order to write. It’s the same thing with music.”

He teaches in four separate divisions: one class comprises 5th- through 8th-graders, another 2nd- though 4th-graders, a third of Kindergarteners and 1st-graders, and finally a pre-K class (the latter meets once a month rather than twice a week).

“I have to approach the divisions differently, he explained. “I’m a bit more exacting with my older kids because I have a higher expectation of them. I remember what was expected of me at that age, and I try to replicate that as far as reading music, sight singing, oral awareness . . . I can’t expect the same thing from my K–2 students.”

With the Winter Concert looming, most classes are focused on practice currently. Mr. Bowden reports that he is excited to see all of the moving parts come together. He’s not alone!

Beyond TNCS

In his spare time, Mr. Bowden is a cantor at the Washington National Cathedral every other Sunday. He recently had the good fortune to participate in a commemorative service of the 400th anniversary of the first slave arriving in North America. “It was kind of a big program, and a lot of different delegates were there,” he said. “I was proud and very grateful to be a part of it. I love being there; they’re accepting of a lot of different types of people.”

So . . . want to hear him sing? You can find him on YouTube at both the cathedral and singing on Anthony Brown’s videos. “[2econd Wind: Ready] is my first album with the group, so I can knock that off my bucket list, actually having a real industry project that I’m a part of. I’m very grateful for that.” The album is hot off the press, just released last month, by the way.

The last thing Mr. Bowden wanted the TNCS community to know about him? “I’m a lover of music and people,” he finished. Welcome to TNCS, Javan Bowden!

TNCS 5th- through 8th-Graders Take the Youth Chinese Test!

On Wednesday, November 13th, upper elementary and middle school students at The New Century School accomplished another big first—they sat for the Youth Chinese Test (YCT). The YCT is an international standardized test and was launched by Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) to encourage non-native students to learn Chinese and improve their Chinese language proficiency. It assesses students’ abilities to use Chinese in their daily and academic lives and consists of a writing test and a speaking test, which are independent of each other. The writing test is divided into four levels; the speaking test is divided into Beginner and Intermediate levels.

From a handout that TNCS students were given:

The YCT Speaking Test assesses test takers’ ability to express themselves orally in Chinese. It is the counterpart to the Level I and II Chinese Proficiency Scales for Speakers of Other Languages and A Level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEF). Test takers who are able to pass the Beginner YCT can understand and use familiar everyday expressions that meet specific needs for communication.

Miss Lily and Miss Jasmine, both from the Confucius Institute at Maryland in College Park, came to TNCS to proctor the tests, which Wei Li (Li Laoshi) had arranged well in advance. Li Laoshi had been preparing TNCS students for the test for weeks. It lasted about 20 minutes and was divided into three parts comprising a total of 25 items:

  • Part I: Listen and Repeat (15)
  • Part II: Listen and Reply (5)
  • Part III: Describe Pictures (5)

See how a select few TNCS students fared (understandably, only a few consented to having a videographer in the room!).

“The students did a great job on the test,” said Li Laoshi afterward. “Our school will get the final results after 1 month, and the certificates will ship to our school from Beijing 2 weeks later!” The maximum score of the YCT is 100, and 60 is considered a passing score. Li Laoshi also offered an explanation about why this test was important:

The reasons why our students need to take the YCT are, first, they can improve their test skills, which is very crucial when they move to middle or high school. Meanwhile, through the test, our students can realize what their current Chinese levels are, which can help them to set a clear learning goal for their Chinese learning in the future.

For practice in the meantime, here are two Chinese websites Li Laoshi uses in class for Daily Three rotations:

Good luck, TNCS students! Zhù hǎo yùn! 祝好运!

TNCS Fall 2019 Open House: Your First Taste of TNCS!

On Saturday, November 2nd, The New Century School held its annual Open House, an event designed to introduce prospective families to TNCS academic programs and overall educational approach. This one was hosted by Admissions Director Suzannah Hopkins, who made the most of this opportunity to spotlight TNCS:

Open House signifies the kick-off, for many schools, to the admissions season. It is one of the many opportunities to see the school. In addition to private tours during the school day or the information night later this month, the Open House offers families a chance to visit the school on a Saturday and ask questions of our amazing lead teachers. The Open House allows us to showcase our faculty, students, and facilities.

Ms. Hopkins, a veteran Admissions Director, feels it’s important to establish a relationship with prospective families, so she started the event off with a bit of a mixer. Families mingled in the auditorium over fresh fruit and baked goods provided by Chef Danielle, while chatting and settling in. At 10:00 am, they were treated to a lineup of student performances that Ms. Hopkins felt would show the audience how both important music and language-learning are at TNCS, two of the many features that set the school apart.

Oral and instrumental performances by a willing group of TNCS students impressed even the babies in the audience! Note that the performances that follow were simply a few elementary and middle school students who volunteered their time to help out; they do not represent an official school performance. . . and yet, they certainly have wow power!

That last Spiderman bit was not only arranged by “Spidey” himself, but also closed with a backflip by way of exit—audible gasps from the audience indicated how successful the performances were in demonstrating the breadth of talent TNCS cultivates and celebrates. “The student performers and ambassadors were terrific. I wanted prospective families to feel welcome and to get a sense of our community,” said Ms. Hopkins.

This performance was followed by brief talks by Ms. Hopkins herself as well as TNCS Head of Lower School and Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali and finally a slide presentation about TNCS by Head of School Shara Khon Duncan.

After that, the student ambassadors Ms. Hopkins just mentioned took over, escorting families to classrooms, showing them around, and answering their questions. What better way to show families, yes, you want your children to attend TNCS and emulate these paragons of student excellence!


“The event went well,” reflected Ms. Hopkins. “We had nice attendance and, from what I could see, families seem happy to be in attendance. We even received two applications over the weekend!” After the event, she surveyed both attendees and faculty about their experience. “I am hoping to use the information I receive to build on the event for next year,” she said.

Open Houses are wonderful ways to start to get to know TNCS, so please, tell your friends and coworkers who might be looking for schools about these great events. As great as they are, though, they are but an “amuse bouche”—to get the full flavor of TNCS, contact admissions@thenewcenturyschool.com so Ms. Hopkins can arrange to give you a tour while school is in session.


By the way, you can see some of that magic happening this month at the TNCS Middle School Preview Wednesday, November 20th from 9:00 am–10:30 am, where you can observe classes in session. Also, the TNCS annual Elementary and Middle School Information Night is taking place on Thursday, November 21, 2019 from 6:00 pm–7:30 pm. These are must-see events for parents of rising middle and elementary schoolers!

Global Studies at TNCS Gets to the Heart of Ancient Civilizations!

For post #333, it’s high time to cover Global Studies in The New Century School elementary and middle school programs. (Immersed has looked at GS in the Montessori classrooms, and, to be sure, those early lessons in this essential discipline pave the way for future analytical thinking about GS topics.) So, buckle up—we’re boarding a time machine back to 2000 BC and forward to visit the three most advanced American civilizations prior to the arrival of the Europeans: the Aztecs, the Maya, and the Inca.

But first, why are Global Studies so important? They are foundational to cultivating global citizens, a tenet of TNCS’s educational approach. According to the National Council for the Social Studies, by studying other cultures, students:

  • [gain] knowledge of world cultures and
  • [understand] the historical, geographic, economic, political, cultural, and environment relationships among world regions and peoples.

As their critical skills develop, older students are asked to:

  • [examine] the nature of cultural differences and national or regional conflicts and problems and
  • [act] to influence public policy and private behavior on behalf of international understanding, tolerance, and empathy.

So, pretty important. Accordingly, in Quarter 1, TNCS 5th- through 8th-graders dug deep into their unit on Ancient World Cultures. Global Studies at TNCS is not studying historical facts and committing them to memory. To ensure that material is truly learned, GS is integrative, incorporating art, writing, and even performance. GS teacher Daphnée Hope explained that, for each of the three civilizations, students created an art project that celebrated one aspect of the given culture. They could build a 3D model of a village, draw maps of the various regions like the Yucatán peninsula where many Mayan structures remain today, or even build pyramids or citadels such as reproductions of Machu Picchu, for example.

The unit culminated with a large project intended to demonstrate that students have absorbed the material and could reproduce it in their own (very) unique way. They were graded in two-part fashion: In one prong, they were assessed on how they presented, in terms of engaging the audience, and, in the other prong, they were assessed on being a good audience and being respectful, attentive, and polite. As you’ll see from their presentations, one theme captivated them all. (If you guessed human sacrifice, you’d be correct!)

 . . . Nothing could beat the way the Aztecs performed their sacrifices. The Aztecs had a very unique way of performing their sacrifices: They would lay people down, stab them with an obsidian blade, and pull out their hearts. Most people would think it is gruesome, but it is a way of signaling their opponents defeat . . .

One thing is for sure—the ancient civilizations unit will really stick with these students! Other interesting tidbits that captured their attention were the Mayan belief that humans were created from maize, that the Mayans understood the concept of zero, and that the Mayan calendar is never wrong . . . except in predicting that the world was to have ended on December 21, 2012. Minor detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q2 will explore World Cultures and Geography, followed by Civics in America in Q3 and American History in Q4. Although these units involve no bloody religious rituals, there will be plenty to keep TNCS students engaged and their perspectives broadened!


“Machu Picchu is still here,
Machu Picchu is still there!
Standin’ up!”