How do you teach music when your students cannot be in the same room? How can you teach a composition when half of your students are learning remotely on any given day? How do you make music relevant to high school students living through a global health crisis?
These were some of the questions Creative Arts Department Chair Neil Freebern and his colleagues in the Burr and Burton music program faced as they planned their instruction for the 2020-21 school year.
In a year when many accepted that traditional music instruction was impossible, Freebern sought solutions to keep the world of music alive for BBA students, “If we can dream it, we can find resources to make it happen. That’s the beauty of working here.”
Freebern knew that two strategic investments could create a silver lining for students studying music amidst the pandemic: A special kind of software called Dante that could digitally connect students playing music in multiple locations, and a deep dive into the art of modern studio music production, enabled by creating isolation rooms where students can record and begin to mix music.
Longtime local business supporter TPW, under the leadership of CEO Paul Carroccio ‘96, had recently clarified its commitment to supporting BBA music and performing arts: “We really wanted to direct our support to creating opportunities for students in the performing arts space.” Carroccio said.
A lifelong musician, Carroccio began playing the drums when he was six years old and has been deeply committed to learning and playing music ever since. During his time in high school at Burr and Burton, Carroccio was serious about both athletics and music, and he came away from that experience with a focus on inspiring achievement in both disciplines: “The successful athlete gets a lot of accolades, [and so should] the kid who’s New England All Jazz. Music and the performing arts are lifelong benefits: you can play the piano or perform in theater for your entire life--it’s something you can get a lot of enjoyment out of and pass along and share with others around you.”
Thanks to generous support from TPW, the music program was able to purchase the Dante software to streamline audio and video connectivity for students in the music program, and complete the work of creating sound rooms where students can record and mix music.
Freebern describes the silver lining: “A lot of music education has been the same way for so many decades--you have marching bands, concert bands, and orchestras, but we don't necessarily embrace the contemporary musician, which is the studio musician or the composer who is using digital tools. It has only been 15 or 20 years since people could produce their own song on a laptop. Music education hasn’t caught up to that yet, but COVID has forced that transition a little faster than it might have happened otherwise--moving to a more contemporary approach to teaching music.”
He continues, “These bright spots have come out of the adversity that we’ve been facing, and having that support from TPW has made that possible.”
For his part, Carroccio knows firsthand just how important a music mentor is, having been inspired by former music teacher John Sanders: “BBA is lucky to have Neil and his wife, just like I was lucky to have John Sanders when I was in school there--our community is lucky to have teachers as passionate as they are.”
TPW is a locally owned family run business with more than one hundred employees in real estate and property management.