Grade 12 Music Recitals: The Finale

Grade 12 Music Recitals: The Finale

by Peter Noonan, Performing Arts Team Leader

The new IBDP curriculum of music is designed around the many verbs that apply to the modern musicians experience. It might seem obvious that the subject of music should focus on what professional musicians do everyday but that hasn’t always been the case in music education.  

When I was a music student in the USA the program was performance-based. It focused almost exclusively on performing the music of others as ‘perfectly’ as possible. It was very competitive and was treated much like a sport. The most important and solitary verb we were given to focus on was reading. Almost all of my music making in school was in an ensemble of some type. We read a part that had been arranged for our instrument and followed a conductor trying their best to keep us together at the front.


Class of 2023 students performing as a band for their final IBDP Music Recital

I was a guitarist reading flute parts before becoming a bassist reading tuba parts. Of course the guitar and the bass didn’t really fit in the wind ensemble so they did not have dedicated music parts arranged for them. This all stemmed from my teacher, with over sixty musicians in the group, trying their best to be inclusive. If you were a pianist you would be reading through the great piano works of others, but if you were like me, you attempted to recreate those parts as accurately as possible. 

This did not change for me until university when I studied Jazz Performance. There were many more verbs to be explored including, of course,  improvisation. However, it was not until my final university recital that I had any say at all in the music that I was playing in my formal education. 

Like so many aspects of modern education, there have been some fundamental changes to the way musicians experience formal music education. This is not to say that playing the music of others in an ensemble is not important or enjoyable, anyone who has experienced it knows that it can be magical. However, it only focuses on one verb in music making and if we objectively look at how many modern musicians experience playing in an orchestra or similar ensemble I think you will find the number is statistically quite low.


Students get to perform music that they have composed and arranged as part of the IBDP curricullum

Coming back to the IBDP, it is vastly different from my formal music education. One of the requirements of the Grade 12 musicians is to present music that they have composed or arranged. They also get the opportunity to perform arrangements of their peers. This approach to music education includes an array of music making verbs from the very start. Students choose and compose the music that they will perform, they put together the group and arrange the music for the musicians involved. The next step is to rehearse the group and adjust accordingly. Finally they star in the performance and lead their groups on stage. Honestly, it is the closest thing that I have seen to a professional experience in the industry and it offers the students a taste of what it is to be a professional musician.
So please come and celebrate our community of musicians in the final recital of their IB career on the nights of Feb., 27, 28 and 29. The doors will open at 5:45 pm and the shows will begin at 6:00 pm. The music you will hear is important to these amazing musicians. Their dedication and artistic intentions are inspiring. They are the future face of music and I am proud to have had the opportunity to spend some time with them exploring their musical tastes and craft.  On behalf of all the students I look forward to seeing you at the recitals.