Now that school is almost back in session, Gresham Middle School band director Dr. Sean Greene is using his imagination and inventiveness to ensure an enriching experience for all of his students in the midst of continuing safety concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.
After all, a roomful of kids all blowing air out at the same time is hardly an ideal scenario these days.
“I have been thinking all summer about how I can most efficiently teach my students and get them to practice their horns every day,” says Greene, known to all as “Dr. G.” “Two things in my background I’ve drawn upon are chamber music and animation.
“I’ve always loved to draw and paint. When I was a senior in high school, I had a tough time deciding between art school and music school. I chose music, but I’ve always done little creative things here and there over the years.”
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Greene earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees, he was deeply influenced by jazz piano teacher Joan Wildman, who died this year. “It hit me pretty hard,” says Greene. “She was fiercely creative and always encouraged me to do my own thing.”
Wildman created simple computer animations to go with her improvisations. Greene wanted to do them, too.
“Thinking about Joan over the extended school break, I feel like she kicked me in the head, like ‘Hey, Sean! You know, you’ve got everything you need to teach these kids how to animate and improvise now! What are you waiting for?’”
He’d already developed computerized play-along improv exercises for the kids. And with every KCS student receiving a Chromebook computer this month, Greene was ready to mine that fertile field. He thought, “why not make this a thing?”
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. “Animation Band will allow students to record themselves and their chamber group of two to five players practicing their instrument(s) digitally. Once students have a recording they will listen and create an animation to serve as a visual representation for what they hear.
“By adding a visual component to their music, students are able to have a more vibrant, visceral creative experience.”
The father of two says, “In general, I am not a supporter of screen time for kids. Besides the dangers of social media and cyberbullying, kids need more physical activity. However, I strongly believe digital platforms will be more and more prevalent in the future, and that using computers as tools for artistic creation and expression will help students cope with their feelings and become more emotionally stable and well adjusted.”
Principal Donna Parker is, well … jazzed about Animation Band. “Dr. G. is creative, passionate and innovative. I commend him for his ability to be transformative, especially this year. I have no doubts that Dr. G. can pull it off for our kiddos.”