All State Festival: More Than Meets the Ear

ANNE PEARCE is a Research Fellow and Meadowbrook parent. Her daughter has participated in the All-State Festival for the past 2 years. In this post she writes about the Waldorf approach to music education.

Early on a cold Saturday morning in November, several violin students warmed up for their audition for the 2012-13 All-State Festival, Orchestra.  The students looked nervous as they practiced their scales, reviewed their music and waited to be called into the audition room.  Jeremy Fortier, the Strings teacher at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School, explained that the students prepared for the audition for months, in school and with a private instructor, learning scales, developing sight-reading skills, and mastering a movement or two from a staple of classical music.

The Rhode Island Music Educators Association sponsors the annual All-State Festival.  RIMEA is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the musical development of all Rhode Islanders, especially through music education and performance in schools and communities.  The festival is open to music students in grades 7-12, who are sponsored by their music teachers, in Orchestra, Chorus, and Band.  This year 1,594 music students from across Rhode Island auditioned and approximately 600 were selected.

“All-State is music-making at a very high level and an opportunity to participate in a full symphonic orchestra, with woodwinds, brass and percussion; the experience is impressive and unbeatable,” Fortier said.

Jeremy Fortier conducts Yuletide Revels in the URI auditorium.

What is also impressive is the large number of Fortier’s students who audition and are selected for the All-State Orchestra, especially given the School is relatively small compared to other participating schools whose student population is 5 to 9 times larger.   The enrollment data for this year’s strings players, for example, shows the Meadowbrook Waldorf School is the best represented at the junior and senior divisions, with 7 of 10 who auditioned selected for the Junior Orchestra and 4 of 7 alumni students selected for the Senior Orchestra.  The next best school represented, a school 5 times larger, had 4 strings students selected for the Junior Orchestra and 2 for the Senior Orchestra.

The reason for the Meadowbrook Waldorf School’s achievement is not only in the talented teacher’s they hire, but in their approach to music education.   Every child at the school plays an instrument from Grade 1 through Grade 8 and from their teachers in Strings, Chorus, Recorder and Ensemble, the students gain not only musical skills and knowledge, but a chance to experience the finer aspects of music-making.   The Meadowbrook choral program will also be represented at this year’s Festival with four current, and several alumni singers.  All students learn to play in ensembles, culminating in performances such as the School’s annual Yuletide Revels Chorus, Recorder, and Strings Ensemble, and for some, the opportunity to participate in the All-State Festival.

The idea of Waldorf music education is that musical ability goes beyond melody, harmony and rhythm to include the experience of working within a group of peers with differing abilities to produce something beautiful.  It helps students go into the world understanding how to listen for more than what meets the ear, and with the satisfaction that comes from refining a skill through effort and perseverance.  The Waldorf music curriculum helps produce fine musicians, but its true aim is to help produce fine human beings.

Impressive indeed.

The RIMEA 2012-2013 All-State Festival concert is on 24 March 2013, Choruses at 12:30pm, Orchestras 3:30pm, and Bands 6:00pm , at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI.  Tickets are $10.

JEREMY FORTIER has been teaching Grade 6, 7 and 8 Strings at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School in Richmond, RI for eight years.  He is also a private teacher for many Meadowbrook students and alumni.  He has played the viola for 30 years and participated in several All-State Festivals in Georgia.

All photographs by SETH JACOBSON PHOTOGRAPHY