Students at Minden High School now have the opportunity to receive $4,420 worth of piano lessons for free and possibly discover, through theater, talents they may have never known existed if the opportunity had not been provided.
A Class Piano class and a theater class are now electives for students at MHS.
The Class Piano class, the first-ever offered at MHS, is an elective for the beginner student or the more advanced one. There is one advanced student in the class but most of the 18 students are beginners, according to Cindy Madden, Musical Specialist.
"Most of the students are the very beginner students who have not had the opportunity to take piano lessons or maybe could not afford it but always wanted the opportunity," Madden said.
The program addresses students at all different levels, including students in the special education program.
"I work with every student one at a time," Madden said.
Each student has their own keyboard, and a set of headphones. The headphones are to allow each student to practice without disturbing their classmates.
Madden assigns each student songs to play and monitors their performance until she can check off that they have played each one successfully.
When the class ends in December, Madden has good expectations for the students who will have been taking 4.5 hours of piano a week.
"I expect that by the end of the semester, we are going to really make some progress and have some kids coming out playing really well," she said. But, she continued, it is still up to the individual student to work hard and practice on his own.
"One of the units will be keyboard so some of these kids will be able to play keyboard for their church music group or a band if they choose to do that," Madden said.
The students will also play in what Madden described as a "monster concert," where everyone plays all together.
"It is like this great big duet where half the keyboards will play one part and the other half play another," she said.
Madden will act as the conductor for the orchestra of pianos.
Sixteen of the keyboards, along with the pedals and plugs, were purchased by the MHS Crimson Chorus through funds they made from talent shows and plays.
Students in the MHS theater class began their learning experience through history.
"We started our drama class by learning where drama came from in ancient Greece," Madden said. "We explored sites of ancient Greece, and we talked about how Greek drama was performed in open theater."
The first assignment given to the students is a Helen of Troy play set in today's language so the students can relate to it, Madden said.
For the assignment, the students were grouped into five different groups of six or seven. Then each group was given four or five pages to prepare.
Their first task within the assignment was to elect a director. Once the director was chosen, the students had freedom to design their portion of the play however they wanted to do it. Everyone in each group had to agree how they designed their portion of the play.
Some of the scenes include music so the students also had to decide, as a group, the music they will use.
Each group takes a different position in the auditorium to work on their pages of the play or skit. As their parts progress, each group alternates coming to the stage, where it is closed off for privacy, to work on their skit.
As the project progresses, Madden will video tape the parts so the students can critique their performance.
"This will help us see how we can improve our performance," Madden said. "This will help us see whether we need to improve on diction or body action, presentation or body position."
The final project will be a surprise to each group. "We will video tape scene-to-scene, but this will be totally unique because they are not sharing their creativity with the other groups," Madden said. "It will be a surprise to the other group. I think it's going to be a lot of fun and they are having a great time with it."
The class may be fun, but it is also teaching the students lasting life and job skills and school lessons according to Madden.
"We are incorporating a lot of vocabulary. They have to know what a playwright is, and we just talked about what the different positions in a play are and what a company is," Madden said.
The students also had to design a company name for their group, and they must design a logo for their company. This will help the students get an idea of how the organization of theater works.
At the beginning of the class, the students were given forms to critique their classmates. This, said Madden, is a chance for each student to privately critique his classmate, and track their progress.
"We will learn to work in a group where some are giving 100 percent and some are not doing as much," Madden said. "Because eventually they will get a job and will work in a group where they may be put as a supervisor of workers and will have to learn how to work and encourage those to do more.
"The ultimate goal of the class is to have a production," Madden continued. "But I wanted them to have a background of where it came from and what the different parts are."
Knowledge of the whole theater world could open the door for those students who may not want to be the main character. Some students may discover they want to be stage manager or design costumes, Madden said.
Madden has plans for a professional makeup artist to give a stage makeup class toward the end of the semester. She hopes to have a session on scene design, where the students will have to work with the carpentry class to build a set and work with the art class to paint the scenery.
"They are going to learn how to be creative and maybe find something they didn't know they were talented in by learning all jobs that come in the theater," she said. "Maybe they will discover they have a talent in a certain avenue that they did not know they had until they were able to have the freedom to put it together.
"This class is teaching students everything – history, cooperation, how to evaluate and analyze, how to give constructive criticism, how to work well with others, poise on stage and how to speak clearly in front of people," Madden said.
"We cross all lines of communication. They have to read, write essays, use vocabulary and we try to put it together in a creative form."
Madden is proud to have a part in the creative electives offered at MHS.
"At Minden High School we have a full-time art teacher, who is excellent, and now we can offer the kids choir, theater, class piano and band. For most high schools that's not offered. This is a very unique situation and I am really proud for Minden High to do that," she said.쇓