Victor Hugo once stated, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Music is an important facet of almost every culture, and its language is certainly universal. Research indicates that playing music promotes brain development by strengthening memory, increasing attention, and even improving reading ability. So, when COVID closed down our music program for a year, our students were not able to develop their musical skills and talents, at least not during school hours.
Realizing the importance of bringing music education back to our school, and potentially expanding our program, I met with the then-principal, Dr. Kevin Calkins, and Mrs. Jessica Swift Lambrou, Director of Music, at Cathedral Catholic High School to discuss a potential joint venture. Throughout the spring and summer, we collaborated and created a plan to seek out, hire, and ultimately share quality musical professionals, who would bring their expertise and experience to our schools for the benefit our students. After many rounds of interviews, we collectively hired Ms. Rachel Alessio for Vocal Music, Mrs. Erin Martysz-Thies for Instrumental Music, and Mrs. FangFang Li as a Strings Specialist.
In addition to enhancing our program at St. Michael’s School, the partnership with CCHS has brought other benefits. For example, Mrs. Swift Lambrou has come to our campus several times to work individually with our brass players, and she has brought several instrumentalists from CCHS to mentor our novices. Our grade 7 and 8 vocal music students were given the opportunity to rehearse with the CCHS choir last fall and then perform at their Christmas program. Earlier this month, 73 middle school students attended a music clinic at CCHS with Juan Cristobal Palacios, who is a conductor and teacher with the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory. Vocal and instrumental students in grades 6, 7, and 8 prepared pieces to perform at the clinic, and Palacios critiqued their performance and gave them tips to improve. Students also were able to listen to other musical groups perform that day, as well as take a tour of the high school campus.
This collaboration is just the beginning of many more opportunities we want to provide for our students at SMS, not just in fine arts, but in all disciplines. Exposure to ideas and talent beyond the halls of our school is vital for their growth and visions. The possibilities are endless!
The following video of our Sixth Grade Choir was recorded on March 15 in the Holy Family Center after the mask restrictions were lifted. This is also the song they performed at CCHS for the guest clinician.