Inspiring the arts

An arrangement of sheet music, colored pencils, a mask, and a viola. These items can be found in fine arts classrooms.
An arrangement of sheet music, colored pencils, a mask, and a viola. These items can be found in fine arts classrooms.
Adeline Harper

The fine arts courses offered at Starr’s Mill are band, orchestra, chorus, drama, and art. Fine arts classes are important because they provide non-academic benefits such as promoting creativity, self expression, appreciation of diversity, cultural exposure, and more. These benefits can be applied to any subject in school and are carried well into the future, curating more creative and well-rounded individuals. 

This feature will highlight our school’s fine arts teachers, and what period of art, music piece, or performance inspired their teaching philosophies.

Scott King, Band Director- Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”

“When I was starting to learn about music in college, I marched with a drum corp for Phantom Regiment out of Illinois and that was our last song in our show, which was very educational for me,” King said. “When we would rehearse it, I would also listen to the orchestra version, not the marching band version, and that was when I started listening to different recordings of things to learn more about music.”

Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” was written to commemorate Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia in 1812. Although it was an immediate hit and still remains a popular composition, Tchaikovsky himself disliked the piece because he considered it to be very loud and noisy. Other notable compositions by Tchaikovsky include Swan Lake, the Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. 

“I was able to start my exploration of different types of music and different ways of doing things and how clean, exact, and precise it was,” King said. “I was getting in my ear what my band should sound like.”

Bert Groover, Assistant Band Director-

“This was one of the first pieces I ever performed with a full symphony orchestra at Auburn University,” Groover said. “Hearing how my part fit with the rest of the ensemble and the use of all the different instruments gave me goosebumps that I can still feel to this day.”

“The Planets, Op. 32” was an orchestral suite written by Gustav Holst that consisted of seven short tone poems. He was inspired by astrology and horoscopes while he wrote them around 1914 to 1916. It was first performed in 1920. The most frequently heard pieces from it include “Mars” and “Jupiter.”

“It absolutely impacts my teaching because of the emotions that I felt through performing,” Groover said. “I know that not every student will enjoy every piece, but if I can find something throughout high school for each student to connect to then I feel like I have succeeded in that aspect.”

Lauren Kuykendall, Drama Director – “Peter and the Starcatcher”

“I played a character named Molly,” Kuykendall said. “This play was where I got to see more of the creation process and where I started falling in love with directing.”

”Peter and the Starcatcher” is a theatrical adaptation of Peter Pan’s story, where young orphan Peter meets a girl named Molly, the starcatcher-in-training. Together they embark on a journey to protect a precious trunk of a celestial substance called starstuff from falling into the wrong hands. It was written by Rick Elice, and directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers were the first to put it on a stage. 

“As a director, I often think back to when I was acting and think, would I enjoy this as an actor, or would this make sense to me as an actor,” Kuykendall said. “So that show itself gave me a preview into what the next trajectory of my life was going to be.”

Todd Little, Art – Modern art

“When I was growing up, my personal tendencies were realism and I always thought of doing realistic artwork and I appreciated it,” Little said. “When I got to college, my opinions were completely altered from a traveling art history course, where I learned about and saw new styles of artwork.” 

The modern art period took place from around 1860 to the 1970s, and it was a step away from traditional styles of artwork and embraced experimentation. Modern artists experimented with their art with elements such as the shapes, colors, and lines that made up the work. The most famous and influential modern artists include Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. 

“When I teach, I make sure I tell my students to consider an abstract approach to their art,” Little said. “I’ve always considered that kind of modern twist.”

Kellie Clark, Choral Director – “Malala” by Joan Szymko, and “Spark” by Eric Barnum

“I can think of two particular songs that have positively influenced the way that I teach,” Clark said. “The first is ‘Malala’ by Joan Szymko.”

‘Malala’ was written about Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win a Nobel prize, who, after being shot and nearly killed by the Taliban for attending school, has dedicated her life to fighting for access to education for girls across the world.

“When learning this song, my students learned about Malala and her life and were inspired to create a concert performance based on themes from her life,” Clark said. “This was one of the first times that I used an interdisciplinary teaching approach in the choral classroom and the first time that my students played such a big role in shaping our concert performance.”

Along with trying new teaching approaches, Clark learned how to overcome challenges with her second song of choice. 

“The students in our Chamber Women’s Ensemble were selected to perform at our state convention that year and this song was the most challenging that we prepared for the performance,” Clark said. “This experience reminded me that many times our students are capable of much more than we might imagine if offered the encouragement and support they need in order to succeed.”

Nathan Kufchak, Orchestra – Beethoven, Claude Bolling, and Apocalyptica

“I don’t think there is any way to list only one song as a favorite because I listen to so many genres of music,”  Kufchak said. “As humans, we listen to different types of music based on our mood, so it is extremely difficult to narrow down all of music to a favorite specific piece, but I can probably list three composers or musicians.”

“First would be the classical- Beethoven. From his third symphony literally ushering in the romantic era to the great quartets and sonatas, he has always been a favorite with his passion and creativity,” Kufchak said.

“Second would be the french jazz pianist, Claude Bolling. He was an amazing musician and composer,” Kufchak said. “He really inspired me to learn to play different genres.” 

“Third would be the Finnish metal band Apocalyptica,” Kufchak said. “It is a group of cellists that loved metal music and decided to play in a small metal club as college students.”

With a broad taste for a variety of music styles, Kufchak’s orchestra students explore and implement a wide variety of themes and styles other than classical in his performances.

“They perform the traditional concerts, but also have movie performances and play behind rock bands,” Kufchak said. “I love the old classical music and enjoy playing it, but make sure students also perform music by people they have heard of that are still alive and touring.”

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