New Class Creates New Vibe In Music Department

For this current school year, Cherokee added a new music class to its repertoire of course offerings: Piano Lab. One class is taught by Cherokee Choral Director, Mrs. Nicole Snodgrass, while the other three are taught by Cherokee’s new music teacher, Mrs. Laurie Flynn. Although both present an identical curriculum, the interpretations of the course by the two teachers are different.

Before her class even touched the pianos, Mrs. Snodgrass taught her students the fundamentals of music theory. By the beginning of the second week of school, her class had learned about the different types of notes, what each note on the staff was called, how to count rhythm and time signatures, and how to play with two hands. With this fundamental knowledge in mind, by the end of the second week of school, Mrs. Snodgrass allowed her students to use the pianos and even had each student in her class perform for the class the first song they had learned.

This pattern of performance for the class has continued as Mrs. Snodgrass takes her students to the choir room regularly to perform the song they have learned that week on a real piano. After each person plays, the class comments on something that the person did well in their performance and Mrs. Snodgrass herself gives advice and critiques. When they perform, each student picks a tempo, or speed, to play in that is comfortable for them. Some students choose to play slowly, which allows for more time to think about the notes while others pick a fast tempo because they are at a slightly higher skill level. These performances are graded by Mrs. Snodgrass and account for a majority of the grades in the course. Thus, students describe Snodgrass’ teaching style as very hands-on.

Period 7 student Kasey Mansfield said her favorite part of Piano Lab was, “Getting to do something unique that I’ve never done before and learning a new instrument because I’ve never played one before.”

Students describe the environment of the class as extremely positive and say that mistakes are seen only as an opportunity to learn. Moreover, they claim that although the class is always fun,  so much is achieved every day. In the first marking period, Mrs. Snodgrass’ class accumulated ten performance grades.

“It’s so fun. Mrs. Snodgrass makes everything so fun, and even if you’re not the best and you mess up, she will go and help you. Everyone in the class loves to perform and help each other,” Mansfield said.

Mrs. Flynn’s interpretation of the class is based more on individual work.

A student of Mrs. Flynn’s period 1 class, Abi Sanie, said, “I think my favorite part is how independent we get to be with the speed that we’re going, because at the beginning everyone sort of had to be at the same page, but now we get to learn at our own pace. So if you need some catch up on music theory you can catch up, or if you need some catch up on your finger placements you can just work at whatever pace works for you.”

While some students have used the time on their own to complete many songs, others have not moved on from certain songs because the class is mainly self-paced. Adding to the individuality of the class, students’ grades are based primarily on self-evaluation. When they have completed certain songs, students of Mrs. Flynn’s class submit recordings of their piano playing.

“Everyone who’s there, is there because they want to learn an instrument. They want to get better. They want to be better musicians,” said Sanie.

Depending on the teacher, the class experience of Piano Lab is different. Both teachers offer a rich learning experience. Piano Lab is a great class to take if you are someone who wants to learn piano. Even if you are new to music in general, the class is a fun way to enter the musical world.