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FDSH gets music appreciation class

Class targets students who aren’t involved in band, choir

January 8, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Fort Dodge Senior High students are getting a new elective class for their third and fourth quarters called Music Appreciation.

The class is for students who are interested in music but disinclined toward performing or playing an instrument, according to Matt Drees, FDSH music teacher.

"It's considered an extra course offering in the music department that isn't an ensemble," Drees said. "So it's not for singers or band members or people that are part of a music class."

Drees, who co-teaches the course with fellow music teacher Joe Svendsen, said the focus of the class is learning about music.

"It's a way to get students involved in the music department without having to feel like they need to be able to sing or need to be able to play an instrument," he said.

The class has several units. The first is learning about music, including rhythm, harmony and melody, Drees said.

"That's to introduce them, if they've never formally studied music before," he said.

One unit will have the students building their own ukeleles from kits, Drees said.

"Meanwhile, during the process, we have some extra ones for them to learn how to play," he said. "So when theirs is built, then they can take them home and play them."

Another unit focuses on how music is experienced both personally and interculturally, Drees said.

"We're going to study how music is experienced in our culture, in our community and how it's experienced in other places of the world," he said. "We'll listen to some world music or drumming circles and talk about why they're happening, why those people play music in that certain way, or why there are different types of performance practices in different parts of the world."

Drees said people experience music in different ways, and grow up with different values of music. The students will explore how music is internalized around the world.

The final unit is in collaboration with students in an international school in Seoul, South Korea, Drees said. The Luther College music professor who taught Drees and Svendsen is teaching the course at the unnamed school.

"We're collaborating with some high school students there to put together a conglomeration, if we were to put together a golden record of some music that represents our culture," he said. "Not just Fort Dodge, but our American culture. They will say, this is music that represents our South Korean culture."

The FDSH students will interact with the South Korean students via Skype, email and video chat, Drees said.

"They'll be interacting and talking with these students about music and how it affects their lives," he said. "We've never done it before, so we'll see how it goes."

Drees said he hopes the students at FDSH will appreciate the new course.

"We're hoping that it will be a way to open the door to the music department and invite more students in, and be working with more students in the student body who might have chosen not to be a part of choir or band," he said. "It will be a way to reach more students."

According to Drees, there's value in learning about music.

"Learning about music helps people understand that it can enrich their lives instead of just being entertainment," he said. "They can understand more about it, and be life-long learners of music, whether they're a formal performer or consider themselves a singer."

Dave Keane, FDSH principal, said he is excited about the new program.

"One of the things we wanted to do is get a course in there for students that maybe weren't born with the gift of being able to play a horn or sing, but have a real passion for music," he said. "We wanted to make sure we have something for them as well."

The addition of the class adds to the quality of the educational experience for the school's students, Keane said.

"We have kind of changed around some of our vocational programs, but we're changing some of our fine arts programs a little bit, too, because that's always been a strength of Fort Dodge Senior High," he said. "We're excited, and the teachers have been working hard on the curriculum."

Fort Dodge Senior High's new music appreciation class begins Jan. 16, with the start of the school's third quarter.

Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or



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