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Isaac Sowers Middle School MIT Program

There’s another new program in the neighborhood! Isaac Sowers Middle School has a history of winning choral competitions, and is now hoping to make a name for itself in commercial music education. After several students inquired with us about their new MIT Music in Technology program and upcoming audition, we called up the director Kari Ivey to get the details on the Isaac Sowers Middle School MIT program.

While Ms. Ivey has already been at Isaac Sowers as an art teacher, this June completes her first year there of teaching both guitar and orchestra (strings/winds), after 22 years of previous music education experience, and a Master’s in Music. The 60 guitar students will hold a rock/blues concert this coming Tuesday the 10th at 7pm at Dwyer Middle School). Feel free to go to seatyourself.com and get tickets. The guitar class is meant as an ongoing beginner’s class, but also as a feeder into the MIT program, so their performance can give you a sense of what’s to come, too!

And just what is to come? The school wants to build MIT into becoming on par with Huntington Beach High School’s APA program, and act as a feeder to local secondary schools. While performances and set lists are always a portion of the curriculum, the program will also provide a foundation in the language of music to be able to create with others. In the meantime, she’s happy to provide classes for students who don’t fit into traditional school music.

For those of you here just about to audition – get ready to take notes! The May 19th auditions sound like a jam-session mixed with musical chairs experience. Instrumental and vocal students will be asked to perform the Beatles’ “In My Life” together – singers, guitarists, drummers, and bassists. You can expect to be asked to take turns at times so different groupings of students can be swapped around. If you’re reading this, you probably already know there’s also pitch-matching and a stylized Happy Birthday song requirement for vocalists, and an additional piece for instrumentalists. More info here.

Of course, that information has already been available for some time. So what is Ms. Ivey really looking for when we talked to her? Here are a few main points she shared:

Show You Can “Hang”:

Performing with others is different from playing or singing on your own. Don’t let errors from yourself or others stop the song, though don’t be afraid to work with the band if they need a pause to get to the next part of the song. Be sure to listen to one another so you all stay together – finishing first isn’t a good thing with music!

Stay in the Song:

Stage presence goes a long way to sell a song to its audience, and the best performers can do that despite of – and even because of – their mistakes, or others’. Errors aren’t an opportunity to make a face at yourself – or the person who messed up. Focus on the next part of the song, and don’t lose your cool.

Move to the Music:

Your audience can only enjoy your song as much as you are. If you’re standing perfectly still, so will they. Do what feels natural, but try to move to the music, and even plan ahead a few simple moves. Whether it’s a double pirouette or just a hand on the hip, this will help you stand out. There isn’t a choreography instructor, so students who already have some sense of physicality to their performance are an asset to the new program.

Be a Student:

While there are great expectations for this program and for you, both you and it are just starting out. The program needs students – not professional performers! Show you are ready to listen carefully, and learn, and that you can struggle through mastering a song – it takes time! The program needs student leaders who will share what they’ve learned with others in the class, and who will step in and learn skills that the group needs, whether it’s a new vocal harmony, or the soundboard for someone else’s performance. This is where your letter of recommendation can go a long way. Ms. Ivey spoke directly about this, making the point that it’s the same with a job interview – the need for someone who is easy to work with and able to learn is greater than the need for someone who already has skills but also has drama.

Be Yourself:

Okay, this one’s more from us than Ms. Ivey. But she’s really looking to find what talents students are bringing to the table, and she knows that many of those auditioning will be beginners. Know what your strengths are, and prepare accordingly. If you’re a little shy but have a good sense of rhythm, work on singing out when others get lost in the song. If you struggle keeping solid rhythm throughout a song on guitar, but you love to solo, have a few worked out. You’ll want to make sure the timing is right, but Ms. Ivey did say she’d like to see soloists in the instrumentalist’s Blues in G song – just make sure you can jump back into the song and finish it, too! And if you’re singing Happy Birthday, you pick whatever key, speed, style, language, or anything else that lets you show her how you’re unique!

One final note for you! It’s a bit brain-rattling to be in a room with lots of music. Ms. Ivey’s been using “dubs” earplugs in class to soften some of the sounds, without missing any notes. If you’re nervous about being overwhelmed by other students when focusing on your part, those work better than blocking your ear! And parents, don’t worry, I’m not aware of any sponsorship deal, this is just a helpful suggestion.

Now go get ’em!

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