Continuously Making Music

Continuously Making Music

by Peter Noonan, MS/HS Music teacher and Performing Arts Team Leader

These strange, interrupted times of remote classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to me the essential qualities that the performing arts have to offer. The music and acting that is helping get us through this time is not just in the periphery. For my family, it probably comes as no surprise that music is an everyday activity: playing piano and guitar and lots of singing from our 9 month old daughter, trying out the new sounds that she learns to make everyday. 

When we suddenly changed to online learning, every teacher around the world scrambled to find what works best. As you can probably imagine, performing arts inherently has its own challenges. In our music program here at YIS, we firmly believe that music is fundamentally a verb, something that we do as humans. Our students have come up with truly amazing ways to make music happen. Actualizing the word ‘performing’ in the performing arts is its own special challenge in online learning but as the musicians in our program have proven to me it is by no means impossible. For example, in spring last year when we began Continuous Learning, our grade 10 students collectively created an arrangement and independently and remotely performed and and recorded all the multi-tracks for the song ‘I See the Light’ by Alan Menken on a web-based recording software,

One of the most important elements of musical life that has been suspended islive concerts. The closest I have come to filling the void of live music is videos of concerts. It is not the same experience, of course, as being in a crowd of dancing fans and having the music wash over you. However, it’s all we have for the time being. Without them, I cannot imagine this strange pause that the world is experiencing. >

The series of live performances that have probably meant the most to my students and I have been the United States’ National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts. The premise seems strange: invite every type of band you could possibly think of into the Washington D.C. offices of NPR and play a stripped down concert behind the reporter’s desk. It is wonderfully vulnerable and as intimate a recording of a musical performance as one can get. If you are not familiar with them I implore you to check them out - like this one of the recently departed jazz legend and musical genius Chick Corea. 

This year as we began to make plans of what the annual grade 12 recitals would look like, our wonderful musicians that I work with decided that they wanted to recreate that intimate type of experience for themselves. We recorded our first round of ‘YIS Microdesk Concerts’ in November of 2020 and it was a resounding success. Each musician chose the songs, arranged them for an ensemble that they formed and rehearsed with and, of course, performed as the featured performer.

Louis performs "Asturias" for one of his Gr. 12 IBDP recital pieces in the YIS Microdesk Concert series.


We invite you to the live streams of the next round of these recitals by these wonderful musicians from March 8 to 12.The times for the performances will be provided closer to the dates. The final mixed versions of the performances will then be available on the YIS Youtube channel. . We thank you all for your support and we promise to keep making music happen here at YIS.