The student news site of Rocky Mount Academy in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Eagle Examiner

The student news site of Rocky Mount Academy in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Eagle Examiner

The student news site of Rocky Mount Academy in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Eagle Examiner

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Music at RMA

Caleb+Heath+playing+guitar+in+Mr.+Leonards+music+class
Caleb Heath playing guitar in Mr. Leonard’s music class

In our last issue, we learned about our wonderful art teachers and the projects they have planned for their students this year. However, the term art isn’t just about what you can see; it is also what you can hear! As your arts and entertainment writer, I want to introduce you to the musical aspects of RMA, including our lovely music teachers–Mrs. Mary Beth Pittman and Mr. Shawn Leonard–and their plans for our young musicians.

Mrs. Pittman started playing violin when she was three years old, sang in the Tar River Children’s Chorus starting in 4th grade, and began doing musicals in high school. At Meredith College, she majored in Vocal Performance, which she says is her personal specialty along with organizing shows.

This is Mrs. Pittman’s sixth year teaching at RMA, where she offers a wide variety of classes. She teaches both General Music and Orchestra to all grades Pre-K through 5, as well as to the Lower and Middle School Exceptional Children’s programs. Making use of her vocal training, Mrs. Pittman also teaches Chorus to all levels (Lower, Middle, and Upper).

Although it might seem early, all of Mrs. Pittman’s classes have started preparing music for Grandparent’s Day (October 6), the Christmas concert (December 13), and the Spring Arts Festival (May 2), which is an annual event that allows students to display their artwork and perform music that they’ve been working on throughout the year. This year, our Spring Arts show will be Seussical, which is a musical about the intertwined stories of individual Dr. Seuss characters: the Cat in the Hat, Jojo, Horton, Gertrude, and Maisie. Auditions for these parts are already being held this month in all of her classes. Later on in the year, Mrs. Pittman plans on adding more instruments into her orchestra classes, the first one being the cello. Currently, it is just a violin orchestra. As Mrs. Pittman says, adding more instruments would “give more variety to students who may not be interested in playing the violin, but still want to play an instrument.” As you can see, she has big plans and works towards them with dedication.

While Mrs. Pittman focuses on voice and younger students, Mr. Leonard works primarily with Upper School students who play instruments since he majored in Professional Music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. His personal specialty is percussion (which primarily means drums).

This is Mr. Leonard’s ninth year teaching various classes at RMA, including Music I for all of 9th Grade, Music Performance (I and II) for grades 10-12, and Digital Audio Technology for grades 10-12. Some years, he also offers classes in Music Theory and Songwriting for grades 10-12.

In Music Performance I and II, students get the opportunity to learn to play instruments they are interested in, including drums, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and ukulele. Mr. Leonard rotates and provides one-on-one instruction while other students practice. Students in Digital Audio Technology are learning about techniques for recording music as well as audio editing. The audio editing can be used for sound design, which can help add sound effects, to, say, a video on YouTube. It can also be used to move around the audio in a recording of music.

One of the most interesting projects Mr. Leonard’s students undertake is in his Music I class. Freshmen are currently doing their weekly music presentations, which require students to choose a current musical artist and make a presentation on that artist, including what music they make and who inspired them. Students then research the band or performer that influenced the musician from the first week’s presentation and put together a new presentation for week 2. The process continues for the rest of the trimester-long course. Most students are currently focusing on artists between the 1980s and the early 2000s, such as Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, and Taylor Swift. Later, Music I students will dive into older music. Mr. Leonard likes to focus on different eras of music, for example, the British invasion in the 1960s, which was influenced by blues music from the 1920s and 30s.

For students who can’t fit a music class into their schedule or just can’t get enough, Mr. Leonard is also looking at restarting RMA’s Open Mic Coffee House, which is an event held at school where students, their families, and RMA staff are welcome to come and have a coffee while students show off their musical talents on stage.

We are so grateful that RMA has such a diverse and talented music department with teachers who love to share their talents with our students. Be on the lookout for the upcoming performances!

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