TNCS’s Music Program Crescendoes!

Music education is essential at The New Century School. From classroom informal singing to formal vocal and instrumentation instruction to guest performances by professional musicians, TNCS exposes children daily to music in many forms.

As TNCS has grown and developed over the years, the music program has continued to evolve alongside. It’s time Immersed breaks it all down and shows readers what each piece looks like (sounds like?) and how the individual pieces fit together, well, harmoniously, all year long—including during summer and before, during, and after school.

TNCS’s Maestro: Martellies Warren

IMG_7074Music Director Martellies Warren has always been the linchpin of the TNCS music program. In addition to providing lessons in music history and on specific musicians, he also starts each academic year off with vocal instruction to prepare students for the two annual Winter and Spring Concerts (one each for primary students, one each for elementary and middle school students). These have grown in scope and intensity, with each somehow topping the last. Each show features a variety of songs in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish as well as a themed set of songs.

This year’s Spring Concert theme on May 18th was Dancing in the Streets, and the sound of Motown was prominent. “I’m always trying to make sure the concert is going to be as spectacular as it was the time before,” said Mr. Warren. “The students take great pride in it. From the time I introduce music at the beginning of the school year, I’m already thinking about what the children gravitate to. I played a little Motown, and they absolutely loved it.”

See the gallery below for photos of TNCS art teacher Jenny Miller’s beautiful set design, with album art help from her students. Check out TNCS’s Facebook page and YouTube channel for videos of individual performances.

For more on the limitless talent of Stellar Award–winning and Grammy-nominated Mr. Warren, see Music Is in the Air at TNCS! and TNCS Goes to the Grammys!.

Music Lessons at TNCS

But vocalization is not the only type of music class at TNCS. Instrument lessons are also offered in a variety of settings.

Have you visited the TNCS Music Education page? Click here.

Extracurricular String Lessons

In 2016, TNCS brought on acclaimed bassist Yoshiaki Horiguchi to teach beginning violin, viola, and cello lessons as well as leading more advanced string ensembles. These classes happen before and after school and are a great way for students to first learn the basics and subsequently use their skills to perform together.

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To read more about beloved Mr. Yoshi, visit TNCS Launches Strings Program Yoshiaki Horiguchi!.

Space is always made in the Winter and Spring Concerts for Mr. Yoshi’s students to play a few songs, and their technical proficiency is impressive. Check out TNCS’s Facebook page and YouTube channel for videos of a play set to music and an original composition (yes, original!) by one of the strings students.

Although Mr. Yoshi is classically trained, he is no stranger to music’s funkier sides, which brings a lot of fun to his TNCS classes. He has taught bucket drumming to various groups, for example, and, perhaps unknown to most until today’s Spring Concert, he is also an accomplished beat boxer. Doug E. Fresh and Biz Markie, watch out. (Got a kid who wants to learn beat boxing? Scroll below to Music in Summer!)

Instrument Exploratory

In 2017, TNCS began offering an optional semester-long class each year to allow students in grades 2–8 to explore various instrument groups. Taught by Mr. Warren during music class, woodwind exploratory covers flute for 5 weeks, followed by clarinet for 5 weeks. Brass exploratory, which happened this year, covers trumpet for 5 weeks, followed by trombone for 5 weeks. The instrument groups covered alternate each year.

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Trombone is Mr. Warren’s preferred instrument (apart from his vocal cords), but he started with the saxophone:

As a boy, I was all ready to play the sax, and I thought it looked so cool. I got to the music store in Montgomery, AL, picked up the sax and tried to play it. I knew it was going to take some time, but I got so frustrated because I just could not get it to sound like the guys on TV. So I begged my mom to take me back to the store, and she told me I needed to pick something and stick with it, to give it some time. The salesman suggested the trombone, and I immediately loved it. This was in 7th grade, and I became section leader and first chair all through junior high and high school.

Trombone has been well liked in Instrument Exploratory as well, but trumpet has so far been most popular of all. Mr. Warren thinks this is because kids can readily produce sounds on the trumpet, whereas some struggled last year with the flute (with one very notable exception).

“Flute is not a very easy instrument to play,” explained Mr. Warren. “You have to direct that air just right to get it to produce a sound. But that’s the experience we’re after. We’re not expecting amazing instrumentalists right away, but we want them to at least pick up instruments and see how they feel and how they sound. Maybe they’ll fall in love with something.”

More than one love affair with an instrument has happened already, which makes Mr. Warren “ecstatic.”

“They are doing some really wonderful things with brass and taking off with it. At this age, children are trying to find themselves, and we want to make sure that we’re offering whatever we can to assist them, especially musically. Whatever we can introduce to them now, even though they may not pick up on it right away, we hope that this will help sustain a lifelong love of music. Some may even make careers out of it.

His approach to teaching instruments is to start out with the fundamentals and systematically build on those, bit by bit. First, Mr. Warren “sets the tone” by insisting on good etiquette—musicians must sit up straight with their feet on the floor, and they must not interrupt while a fellow musician is talking or playing. Step two is to get everyone in tune. From there, they practice various exercises, each becoming more complex than the last.

Recorder Instruction

Those students not opting in for Instrument Exploratory receive recorder lessons during music class from Javais Bazemore (“Mr. J.” to students). Mr. J. says, “Recorder is what I grew up on, but I’ll play anything with a pipe. For me, recorder is the first thing that you start with. If you can read recorder music, you can read other music. It opens your eyes up to see exactly how it works.”

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He also sings and plays piano and guitar, but recorder remains his main gig, and he played it in band throughout his school years and even into college at North Carolina State University. “Being in band built a lot of character for me, and we felt like a family. We had a strict instructor who insisted that we respect our instruments and show discipline,” he explained. “Here at TNCS, we just want to show students how to read music because you can start with that and go to anything else, really.”

Mr. J. is from Baltimore and came to TNCS through the suggestions of friends and his mother that he should work with children. He started in the TNCS aftercare program, loved it, and has since added various other roles, including teaching recorder. He demonstrated his musical ability to Mr. Warren, who deemed him a good fit.

IMG_0573“It’s really fun to see where the kids are now, from where they started. I can just play a note like a G, and they know how to play it back with no problem,” said Mr. J. “I gave them incentive at the beginning. I told them that if they showed me they can remember all the notes, I’d give them a 30-minute play break at the end of school.” He didn’t necessarily believe that would happen. “Little did I know, they outsmarted me and became really cohesive, teaching each other,” he laughed.

“This has been really great,” said Mr. J. “I love the kids. They’re just so smart. They’re like sponges—they want to soak up everything, and it’s really good to be around them.”

Band Ensemble

With a solid foundation in place from instrument exploratory or recorder lessons, these young musicians are ready to play together during the last couple of weeks of school. “Students can choose from trombone, trumpet, clarinet, flute, and recorder, said Mr. Warren. “We’ll come together and do somewhat of an ensemble, which should be really fun.” In fact, all students Grade 2 and up participate in band, which was composed of 18 recorder players, 5 clarinetists, 6 trumpet players, 3 trombonists, and 1 brave flautist.

As with Instrument Exploratory, exercises start simply and build in complexity.

Special Guest Performances

Music education doesn’t just take place in front of an audience. Sometimes, experiencing music as part of the audience opens students up to it in new and important ways. A new performance series begins at the end of May, featuring professional guest musicians. “Meet the Musicians” will start with a brief concert by each musician, followed up by a Q&A for students to learn about what it’s like to pursue a career in music.

Louna Dekker-Vargas will play the flute; Osi Atikphh, the tuba; and Mateen Milan, the bassoon, giving TNCS students a break from performing and allowing them to relax and enjoy the music.

Music in Summer

We all know that the saying “No more pencils, no more books” no longer applies to summer break, and playing music is no different. To keep skills sharp, children must continue practicing during the summer months.

TNCS has that covered, too. Back for the second year in a row, American Music Camp students learn from faculty who perform American Music (e.g., old-time music from the Appalachian Mountains to traditional Bluegrass) in all parts of the country. Students have the opportunity to play in ensembles and learn how to improvise—no improvisation experience needed.

Directed by Mr. Yoshi, AMC Baltimore includes a bucket band and beat boxing in its curriculum, bringing a facet of American music that is unique to this region. No matter what his or her experience level is, any student will fit right in. Each class is taught by world-class faculty and performers from Baltimore and throughout the country.

Read about last year’s absolutely amazing inaugural AMC camp: American Music System Summer Camp at TNCS!

But that’s not all. Debuting this year is an all-new musical theatre camp taught by none other than Mr. Warren. This came about, he explains, “because a lot of TNCS students are interested in what happens behind the scenes and are curious about what it’s like to be a working music professional. They’re always asking, ‘Mr. Warren what do you do? How do you feel on stage? What’s the preparation? Do you rehearse a lot? Do you do vocal exercises?’ So my hope for this summer is to give them a taste of what it takes to be a performer on stage, how to channel emotions into theatrical form.”

His plans for theatrical music camp include building sets and doing monologues in addition to musicality. “It should be really fun and, hopefully, maybe spark someone’s interest in theater. That’s my hope,” he says. Parents can attend a performance at the end of the camp week.


Register your child for a music (or any other) camp this summer here. Also plan to enroll your child in a music class for the 2018–2019 school year. Both in-school and extracurricular lessons are affordable and taught by TNCS’s wonderful music instructors.

TNCS Elementary and Middle School Students Visit AVAM!

Last week, Immersed profiled self-taught Baltimore multimedia artist Matt Muirhead’s visit to The New Century School to present his crankie to a rapt group of preprimary students (read TNCS Preprimary Gets Wounds Up for a Very Special Art Show). This week, some of the older students give their inner artists a turn.

Teachers Nameeta Sharma and Jon Wallace escorted the 3rd- through 7th-graders on a field trip to the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM), a true Baltimore gem. “We wanted to expose the students to Baltimore art as well as make that connection with what [art teacher Jenny Miller] teaches and frequently discusses,” said Mrs. Sharma. “These students love to be hands on, and we try to make opportunities available to them to deepen their understanding and engage them.”

“We are the National Museum for Self-Taught Artisans”

(No really–Congress said so!) It’s a great fit. Like TNCS, AVAM is special in so many ways. AVAM was founded in 1995 by Rebecca Alban Hoffberger who envisioned a “museum and education center that would emphasize intuitive creative invention and grassroots genius.” Rather than displaying specific artists or styles, themed exhibitions circulate through AVAM to complement its permanent installations.
The museum’s 7 educational goals are:

  1. Expand the definition of a worthwhile life.
  2. Engender respect for and delight in the gifts of others.
  3. Increase awareness of the wide variety of choices available in life for all … particularly students
  4. Encourage each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths
  5. Promote the use of innate intelligence, intuition, self-exploration, and creative self-reliance.
  6. Confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.
  7. Empower the individual to choose to do that something really, really well.

TNCS’s visit began in the Jim Rouse Visionary Center with an introduction and a run-through of the rules by museum educators Sara and Emily. They explained that AVAM features truly visionary art, which they defined as “art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” The visionary artist typically receives an inspirational message or vision that he or she is compelled to manifest, often not considering the manifestation to be actual art. Another key characteristic of visionary art is the use of unusual materials.

To get the most out of this wondrous experience, the large group split into two, with 3rd- and 4th-graders first taking a docent-led tour of the exhibits in the main building, and 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-graders heading upstairs to make some art in The Thou Art Creative Classroom. The groups then switched activities.

The Great Mystery Show

The main exhibit currently is The Great Mystery Show, which “. . .  artfully peels away the veil of the unknown, playfully exploring mystery as that one secret power behind great art, science, and pursuit of the sacred . . . [in a] wildly visual exaltation of the strangeness and wonder of Life itself.” The viewer gets transported to other-worldly realms, lost in the experience. TNCS students deemed it “cool.” 

Planetary Pendants

The group not touring was busy making. In a craft inspired by featured AVAM artist Edward Woltemate and also tying into The Great Mystery Show exhibit, TNCS students created their own wearable planets out of Perler beads. Woltemate and other visionary artists create imaginary worlds or explore the mysteries of the existing universe through their art.
To get their minds spinning, TNCS students were asked to consider whether they would create an imaginary planet or reproduce a known one. Would it have rings? What kind of weather would it have and would the weather be visible in the planet’s atmosphere? Is the planet inhabited? If so, by what or whom? What do the inhabitants eat? 

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TNCS students are incredibly fortunate to not only have this world-renowned museum of “outsider art” (also known as “intuitive art,” “raw art,” or “art brut”) just a couple of neighborhoods away but also to have teachers who understand the importance of taking them there. Visiting museums and engaging with art paves the way for students to live richly and meaningfully. It also connects them with their fellow humans and their humanity, helping them to become responsible world citizens.

More Great AVAM Offerings

The list would be never-ending, but here are some highlights that shouldn’t be missed!

ColorCycling Comes to TNCS!

Does having to throw away something plastic but perhaps unrecyclable make you uneasy, especially single- or short-term-use items? Plastic drinking straws, for example, were once thought to be wonderful innovations because of their apparent cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacture. But when you consider that, globally, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced, half of which is for such disposable items, blithely discarding that straw starts to loom a little larger in significance (and, ultimately, cost). The plastic problem makes many among The New Century School community uncomfortable, too, so TNCS is doing something about it!

Bold Strokes

Head of School Alicia Danyali has enrolled TNCS as a participant in Crayola’s ColorCycling Program, which allows K–12 students to collect and repurpose used markers of any brand. This program also offers classroom opportunities for emphasizing each individual’s capacity for protecting the Earth. In fact, says TNCS Art Teacher Jenny Miller, “I steer away from markers or any other individually plastic encased art product for the very reason of unnecessary waste. I will investigate any other ways that we can practice sustainability in art class.”

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Don’t throw away used markers—colorcycle them!

It’s good to note, though, that the Crayola company is implementing ColorCycling and other green initiatives, such as “using 100% reforested wood for colored pencils  . . . and recycling ground water through [their] crayon cooling process.” How are the colorcycled markers repurposed? Into fuel!

Crayola conducted extensive research into various new and emerging technologies that would allow the company to repurpose its markers and found the most efficient and beneficial solution at this time is the plastic to energy process, which allows the company to repurpose the entire marker. If a classroom recycles 193 markers, that is enough to move a city bus for 3 miles.

For the marker program, all we have to do, TNCS community, is bring our “dead soldiers”—again, any brand—to TNCS, where they will be collected in a specially designated box and kept in the art room. TNCS students will count them and pack them up for shipping—and Crayola even pays the shipping costs!

And voilà—TNCS is an “eco-cool school”!

Fine Print

Most of us are well aware that plastic waste is a huge environmental concern and a growing problem for future generations, but it never hurts to read the plain, if pretty horrifying, facts.

• Plastics impair human health. Plastics contain a variety of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have been demonstrated to interfere with human endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurodevelopment systems. The long-term effects of these EDCs are still being investigated, and researchers are uncovering other insidious effects all the while.

• Plastics damage the environment. All the plastic so far produced is still with us in some form because it takes 500 years for plastic to decompose. Recycling plastic is not always easy or possible to do, and what doesn’t get recycled winds up in landfills, a clearly unsustainable practice at close to 30 million tons per year (just in the United States!). However, incinerating plastic is an even worse proposition, as burning plastic causes it to release EDCs and other toxins into the air, polluting it and adding to the human bioaccumulated burden. It also gives off CO2, contributing to global warming. And then there’s plastic litter that ultimately finds its way into waterways, polluting the ocean and inducing a cascade of effects on the environment and on wildlife.

Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of life because of their sheer convenience, but we are now reckoning the hidden costs. Programs like ColorCycling not only help start to address the problem, but also increase awareness that there is a problem—a marker is such a seemingly innocent thing, after all . . . until the magic wears off.