One fundamental cornerstone of Parker’s philosophy and teaching style is the responsive nature of the faculty to our students and how this affects curriculum. A perfect example is the Women in Music program developed by Music Department Co-Chair Kingsley Tang. Previously, a 5th grade student voiced her concerns about what she perceived to be a lack of female representation in the music industry, so Tang jumped at the chance to help his music classes take a closer look at gender inequity in the field. Fortunately, this was such a resounding success last year that Tang and the Music Department decided to further develop this program.
As part of this work, Tang orchestrated a special Women in Music presentation for 5th grade students wherein he invited five female musicians representing different styles of music and subcultures to the school to help illuminate the people and personal stories behind each of them. At this Morning Ex, Parker’s brass teacher and trombone player Catie Hickey was joined by hornist Joanna Schulz, flutist Gaby Vargas, pianist and music director Christie Chiles-Twillie and bassist and vocalist Katie Ernstwith their instruments in the Harris Center. They took turns introducing themselves and their instruments and sharing their personal stories about what drew them to music in general and each of their specific instruments in particular.
Our 7th grade and Upper School Concert Band students also had an opportunity to partake in this unforgettable experience, connecting with some of our visiting professional musicians, including Caroline Synakowski on the trumpet and Stacia Fortune on the clarinet. Our music students experienced firsthand the excitement of hearing music played at the highest level as each guest demonstrated her instrument’s capabilities and shared some of the anecdotes and adventures that shaped her artistic career.
Hickey shared, “We were able to gather a group of women that was diverse not only in racial background, but in age, musical specialization and personal story. It was such a privilege to present a panel that wasn’t reductive to one kind of identity politics. The questions our students asked reflected this intersectionality. They asked not just about when we were treated like second class citizens, but also about what kinds of strengths we found in our unique voices. More than being a feminist message, we had a nuanced discussion on why such events were so important. Inviting outsiders into our Parker community to speak on these inequalities brought home the message so much more effectively than any class discussion with numbers and facts ever could.”
Each presentation culminated with the understanding that music creates connections, crosses borders and unites people of all walks of life around the globe. The classes included with an exciting and authentic conversation between our students and the professionals and concluded on a memorable “note” as they played several musical pieces side by side with their new musical friends.
The experience featured great music and thought-provoking discussion, helping all in attendance appreciate the personalities and people behind the instruments.