Student Conductors Step Up
Ron Mallory, Performing Arts Faculty

By Ron Mallory, High School Music Teacher

In my eleven years as a music teacher at Forest Ridge, I've often said that my proudest moments are the times when I can step back and simply let the students "do their thing." As our high school handbell choirs continue working towards our upcoming holiday concert, and as the students work together to plan ahead for our spring concert, I'm excited to see them stepping up to take ownership of their learning. The results are much more than just new musical skills.

Many years ago I started a tradition of having seniors conduct pieces on concerts. As with many of my best ideas, I stole this one from another music educator I know!—but it's been a great fit for us at Forest Ridge. Conducting is a unique type of leadership role where students not only put their musical skills to use in a unique way but also have to guide others in realizing their vision for a piece. They also have to inspire confidence in the ensemble by exuding confidence themselves. We have two students "in training" to conduct pieces on our holiday concert, and several others who have expressed interest in stepping into this role the second semester.

I also enjoy allowing the students to do much of the planning for the spring concert. During this process, students learn to share their creative ideas in a group setting, but they also have to be willing to listen to contrary ideas presented by others and work to find common ground. I do my best to guide the process, making sure all voices are heard and pushing things forward if the discussion reaches an impasse. At the end of the process, students also have to be prepared to support the group consensus even if it's not their personal first choice. It can be a challenging process, but it sets students up for the kind of collaborative work they will encounter in their future lives. At this point, the students are leaning towards some sort of "time travel" theme for our spring concert, revisiting the music of the past as we begin the new decade of the 2020s.

Be sure to join us for our holiday concert on Tuesday night, December 17 at 7:00 p.m. For that performance, we'll be combining with the school's vocal choirs, as well as the student-run Orchestra Club (another great example of students taking initiative). And plan ahead to be at our spring handbell concert on Saturday night, May 2. You'll see many examples of students stepping up to show what they can do.

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