Original works of twenty-nine Newtown High School composers were presented and celebrated at the school's 3rd annual Composers' Concert on April 20, 2016. The event was coordinated by music teacher Chris Lee, who was "delighted with the range of genre and breadth of expression demonstrated by this year's composers." The Newtown High School New Music Ensemble was on hand to offer sensitive performances of acoustic pieces, while numerous other works were "performed" by various software applications. Here is a sampling of the evening's treasures...
Students in Mr. Lee's Music Technology classes have been creating compelling original compositions throughout the first half of the school year. Check out some examples from the close of the fall semester...
In Jetson Ku's final project, Jetson paired a borrowed vocal track with accompanying music of his own creation, demonstrating the technical care and artistic vision necessary to compose a compatible and organic "back-up track."
In a joint final project by Thomas Jensen and John McCann, artistic collaboration resulted in an engaging musical work with detail, form, and texture.
Throughout the early months of school, students in Mr. Lee's Newtown High School music classes have been creating and talking about music in myriad ways. In Harmony and Composition I, students have sharpened their active listening skills, building a rich lexicon with which to explain the musical world around them. In AP Music Theory, our young composers have laid the groundwork for 4-part chorale writing, a pedagogical practice that dates back to Mozart and earlier. Meanwhile, as Jazz Improvisation students have developed their blues and scale vocabularies, Music Technology classes have employed a technique called "vertical layering" to create interactive video game scores. The musical universe is a diverse one indeed!
And here are snippets of video game scores from Music Technology 1 and 2. Each student used the pentatonic pitch collection and their sense of rhythm to create a multilayered fabric of musical texture, much like the looping soundtracks of blockbuster video games.
New music for Super Mario Brothers - Underworld (excerpt)
New music for Rayman Legends (excerpt)
New music for Super Mario Brothers - Overworld (excerpt)
The 2nd Annual Newtown High School Composers' Concert, held April 22, 2015, featured the work of 21 talented student composers. Compelling electronic compositions alternated with acoustic works performed live by the NHS New Music Ensemble, a select group of student musicians assembled for the event. Musical styles ranged from 18th-century chorales to ambient and beat-driven electronic music. Check out a few examples!
Joey Whelan - Excerpt from September is Calling (Senior Project)
[Richie Sadlon, soprano sax]
Judge Russell - Free Project (from Music Technology 3)
Greg Grasso - Chorale in G minor (from AP Music Theory)
Fall 2014 saw much creative output from Mr. Lee's Music Technology classes. Here's just a sampling:
In sophomore Clare McKinley's project, atmospheric textures and motoric synth lines combine to paint an otherworldly soundscape.
In freshman Ethan Aug's project, the gradual build-up of tightly constructed tracks sweeps us away with joyful tunes and a toe-tapping beat.
Sophomore Jack Riebe's project evokes a gripping scene with his inexorable bass notes, serious beat, and cascading scales.
Newtown High School teacher Chris Lee has been appointed the national College Board Advisor for AP Music Theory for the 2015-16 academic year. As such, he'll be sitting on the AP Music Theory Development Committee, a panel of eight professionals from secondary and higher education that drives course content and writes each year's AP Music Theory Exam. As College Board Advisor, Mr. Lee will also serve as a primary resource for AP teachers across the country, helping to maintain support materials and facilitating discussions on the Online Teacher Community.
Students in Mr. Lee's Music Technology classes have been learning the ins and outs of music production software while creating compellingly original pieces of music. In Music Technology III, students have been preparing for the film-scoring unit by composing short musical "cues," each depicting a unique still image selected by the student. In these two examples, rich cinematic scenes are evoked in works by sophomore Clare McKinley and senior Chris Daly, who scored their music to images of a destroyed planet and a moonlit forest, respectively.
This week, the Newtown High School Music Department will inaugurate a new tradition by presenting the first-ever NHS Composers' Concert. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at 7:00PM in the high school cafetorium, and will feature student work from the school's music theory and music technology programs. With projects ranging from classical-style chorales to electronic dance music, the concert will demonstrate our young composers' abilities to merge technique and structure with personal expression. Some works will be performed by the school's New Music Ensemble, a small group of instrumentalists newly assembled for the occasion. "I'm thrilled," says teacher Chris Lee, "to be finally offering a public event for our student composers, who impress me every year with their craft and creativity." Check out this article from the Newtown Bee: [click here].
Students in Mr. Lee's music classes have been "getting visual" to inspire and organize their ideas. In Music Technology I, our young composers were asked to create a musical cue that depicts the image of a speed train lurching into motion, gaining momentum, and disappearing into the horizon. Check out Freshman Charles Romano's project to hear how tempo and pitch can be manipulated to evoke this imagery.
In Harmony and Composition I, students completed concept maps to synthesize their understanding of key music terminology. Our overarching goal was to gain a strong vocabulary that can be used to describe -- in specific and meaningful ways -- what one hears in a piece of music. Click below to see the concept map created by Sophomores Molly Begg, Gill Kirlin, and Aimee Talbot.
MUSIC TEACHER PARTICIPATES IN NATIONAL EVENTS
Music teacher Chris Lee has had a busy few weeks. On June 6-8, 2013, he joined 50 music teachers selected from across the United States to participate in the 2013 Yale Symposium on Music in Schools. Experts gave presentations on historical and current trends in school reform and the integral role music and the arts play in our evolving education system. Break-out sessions and a large panel discussion allowed participants to share perspectives and experiences, and the weekend culminated as Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker awarded each of the 50 teachers with the 2013 Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award.
Soon thereafter, Mr. Lee travelled to Cincinnati, OH, to participate in the College Board’s annual AP Reading in Music Theory. Each June, selected AP teachers and college faculty members from around the world gather in the United States to evaluate and score the free response sections of the AP Exams. Joining about 100 music theory professionals to score about 17,500 exams, Mr. Lee was assigned to "Sight-Singing Question No. 2," where he heard roughly 900 cassette tapes from around the country. From the experience, AP Readers get an intricate view of the exam process and gain valuable insight from professional development sessions that cover current pedagogical trends as well as new initiatives at the College Board.
Student Work and News
From our young composers, producers, and performers at NHS.