By Peter Mundt
I believe I was in late elementary school when I discovered The Beatles among my parents record collection. It was life-changing. This music was drastically different from the type of music I was hearing in school, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. Before long I found myself wanting to do more than just listen to the music. I wanted to play it. So, I picked up my mother’s guitar and never looked back.
My teenage years were spent playing in garage bands and going out to hear live original music performed by other groups in the Binghamton/Ithaca area, which had a vibrant local music scene, of which I was happy to be a part. Unfortunately, at the same time, music I was learning in school seemed boring and disconnected from the joy I was experiencing with making music. I hoped to change this someday.
With this history, how ironic is it that I ended up becoming an elementary school general music/chorus teacher in a public school system? Now teaching in the Scituate school system, I have experienced great success in engaging my students. No boring music for my students! I attribute much of my success as an educator to the effort I make to not repeat the way music was presented to me in school.
My teaching philosophy is that there is a fun way to teach just about anything! Kids deserve to be taught real music – from folk, jazz, rock, blues and classical repertoire. I find that many of the songs and chorale arrangements written for young people are so uninspiring that they turn kids off. This is why I dedicate so much time listening to music and arranging it myself. I want all my students in Scituate and in South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Youth Chorus, which I conduct, to love what they’re singing. This year, the chorus sang familiar tunes such as ‘Viva La Vida,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Summer Breeze,’ ‘Happy,’ Walking in the Air,’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’’ and they loved it.
In addition to fun music, I also enjoy providing my students with musical challenges. I’m happiest when my students are excited about what they are working on, even to the point where they may feel a bit nervous. Often their voice trembles as they step out of their comfort zone for the first time, but I can feel their excitement and know we’re in new, fertile territory. It may be when students lock into a new harmony or sing a solo. They experience an indescribable joy from this new awareness, which requires persistence, risk, and prior failed attempts. It changes everybody forever!
Chorus can do this, and it’s the main reason I teach. In South Shore Conservatory Youth Chorus (SSCYC), students throughout the South Shore have the opportunity to thrive in a safe environment with other students who love to sing. They learn the fundamentals of proper vocal production and singing in harmony. They are encouraged to try out solo opportunities and special performance collaborations with other SSC departments (such as singing with the SSC Youth Orchestra). It is my hope that students feel safe enough to step outside their comfort zone and come away loving to sing even more than they thought imaginable!
South Shore Conservatory invites singers in grades three through six, who are interested in learning more about SSC Youth Chorus, to participate in the chorus’s first rehearsal, an open rehearsal/pizza party on Monday, September 10, from 5 to 6 pm at SSC’s Duxbury campus at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury. To learn more about SSC Youth Chorus, visit https://sscmusic.org/sscyc/.
SSC Youth Chorus conductor Peter Mundt has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2017.