Dublin’s Elementary Band Program Prospers and Develops Future Musicians
Every day hundreds of Dublin Unified School District middle and high school students make music as part of their day. As part of their curriculum, many Fallon and Wells musicians are honing their skills in a Symphonic Band class or perhaps are preparing for Band Review season. At Dublin High, students are refining their selections for Concert, Jazz or Marching band – sometimes for all three. As with any journey – it begins with its first step. Many of these students may not have arrived in these classes had it not been for their initial exposure to music in elementary school.
OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to visit with Instrumental Music Teacher, Chris Immesoete. Ms. Immesoete presently provides music instruction to fourth and fifth at ALL six elementary schools in the District. While growing up in New York, Chris gravitated to music at a very early age. Starting in the second grade she began violin lessons. By the fourth grade, she had earned the honor of first violin over some students that were two years older than her. At this time, she also learned to play the clarinet and participated in chorus. She credited this early exposure to band, orchestra and chorus in confirming the value of all three assemblies. In high school she began to play French horn. She continued to play in college and now plays semi-professionally.
Academically, she was on a math/science track. She earned a B.A. in Biology from the University of Rochester. However, her devotion to music would not be extinguished, so she successfully completed a double major in Music Education. Her musical training would not end there. In the succeeding two years, Ms. Immesoete would attain a M.A. in Music Education. This was also accomplished at the University of Rochester in the Eastman School of Music. Eastman has been recognized as one of the most prestigious graduate school music programs in the United States – equal to The Julliard School. Her master’s thesis provides an interesting anecdote. It was a comparative statistical study using two well-known and accepted psychological tests of self-taught professional musicians and conservatory-taught professional musicians. She defended it before several guest professors as well as the Eastman faculty. At the end of the day, everyone was intrigued to see a scientific statistical study being conducted at the music college.
Chris began her teaching career in the Avon Central School District in 1989. However, weary of the snowy winters, the fate of the family changed course. While on hiatus and raising her two young sons, her husband received a job opportunity in San Francisco in December, 2000. They were attracted to the Dublin community and purchased a home. While the boys initially attended Dublin schools, the family relocated to Orinda in 2009. They are 11th and 8th graders, respectively. As you might guess, they both play horn and participate in jazz band.
OneDublin.org: You will be celebrating your 12th year anniversary in January as an instructional music teacher with DUSD. What are the primary changes that you’ve witnessed within the District and how has it changed your role?
Chris Immesoete: “The district is clearly growing at a tremendous rate, and has been since I moved to Dublin. My role is to offer instrumental music to all six schools in the district. I maintain that there should be equity among the schools, so I teach the same number of section at each of the six schools, homogeneously grouped by age and instrument.”
OneDublin.org: Many of your 4th or 5th grade students are holding an instrument for the very first time. What strategies do you employ to help your musicians and their instrument to become one?
Immesoete: “I allow students to learn their choice of instrument. I have found over the years since I started teaching in the late 80′s, students are far more motivated to learn something they prefer, not what has been forced upon them. I explain and demonstrate the basics, from opening the case, assembly, maintenance, and note production and articulation. We break everything into its most rudimentary components so that the students have a firm foundation of proper technique from the beginning.”
OneDublin.org: Through your experiences, can you identify or sense a correlation between learning to play an instrument with success in other academic areas?
Immesoete: “Music learning requires the active use of other areas of the brain. As students learn music and perform it, synapses are being formed, creating pathways providing a deeper understanding than lecture alone. Music reading encompasses basic mathematics and decoding. It is an ideal venue for students with dyslexia and other syndromes. Music achievement does not rely on academic achievement, but the converse is true that music usually enhances academic achievement.”
OneDublin.org: The band programs at Dublin High, Fallon and Wells Middle Schools have been on a growth curve. In reality, many of these musicians are there because of their initial experience with you in an elementary setting. How does it make you feel to see and hear many of your former students move forward to their next levels?
Immesoete: “I do my best to make elementary band FUN, but a genuinely intense learning experience, since I see the students only once or twice a week. If band is all-inclusive at my level, students feel like they belong to the organization and stay in the program for a longer period of time.”
OneDublin.org: During troubled budgetary times, the Arts programs are always at risk. What would you say to families about the importance of retaining an opportunity to participate in creative arts?
Immesoete: “I think the feeling of the Dublin parents speak for themselves. We have a thriving band program that is growing, as the district is growing. Participation in sports and in the arts is crucial for the growth of a well-rounded person. The more students participate physically in music performance and sports, the greater their academic success, and desire to stay lifelong learners after graduation. (It also looks really good on your college applications!)”
Lifelong learning and enhanced academic achievement through music? It’s elementary!