Spotlight on Jenni Ingram, Band Director at Clear Lake High School
Meet Jenni Ingram, Band Director at Clear Lake High School & Terrace Middle School, Lakeport, CA. She teaches music at both Terrace Middle School and Clear Lake High School in the Lakeport Unified School District teaching Concert Band, Jazz Band and Recording Technology. On a daily basis she teaches music to approximately 250 students, roughly one quarter of the entire middle school and high school student body. In regards to teaching in Lake County, Jenni says, “I enjoy the rural small town atmosphere and find that students and families are eager to participate in the arts.
Recording Technology is an independent study course where students may work at their own pace to learn composing, recording, sound engineering and light engineering in our state of the art recording studio.
Jenni participated in band from the fourth grade through high school and gave music lessons to younger students when she was in high school and college.
She attended Santa Rosa Junior College after w enjoyed the small class size and one-on-one teaching style. The intricacies and depth of music theory captivated me and I was eager to share my joy of music with others.
I transferred and continued my music education at University of Arizona (U of A) where I earned my Bachelor of Music in Music Education with an emphasis on instrumental music. At U of A I had fantastic music education professors who pushed me to attain higher levels of musicianship and truly gave me a vast array of pedagogical tools. My college education truly molded me into not only an accomplished musician but an inspired and lifelong learning teacher. I continue to enjoy attending and participating in live performances of all genres.
In particular, I am very interested in observing fellow conductors and advancing my own conducting craft. I look forward to attending various concerts and seeing a wide variety of conductors and styles, as well as collecting numerous films of great conductors.
- Unit/lesson title: African Cultural Music: Musical Trends, History, and Performance of Sean O’Loughlin’s Imani
- Arts discipline(s) taught in the unit/lesson: Concert Band
- Unit/Lesson grade level(s)): 9th-12th grades
- Other disciplines included in the unit/lesson (optional): History
My students for this project are 9th-12th grade Concert Band students at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport, California. Lakeport and the surrounding towns are physically beautiful with sprawling pear orchards, grape vineyards, rolling hills with oak trees, and the pristine waters of Clear Lake juxtaposed by the impressive Mount Konocti. A major element of the student culture is enjoying the landscapes and outdoors. It is common for students to spend their after school hours tending to their farm animals as 4H members, jet skiing and boating on the waters of Clear Lake, hiking on Mount Konocti, riding quads and dirt bikes on Cow Mountain, and in general spending a great deal of time outdoors.
The Concert Band is split into two class periods to rehearse, but they perform altogether as a 108-member band. We meet five days a week for roughly 50 minutes. Like many music ensembles, band includes a diverse range of students. Within our band some students are aspiring professional musicians, professional sound and light engineers, professional composers, their own garage bands, perform outside of school in local churches, as well as participating in music for the joy of music. Music at the high school level also provides unique social and leadership opportunities. It is wonderful to teach in a rural school district and students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities on campus from the arts, athletics, and school clubs.
Clear Lake High School has a total school enrollment of roughly 470 students. Our school is comprised of about 5% English Language Learners, 34% socio-economic disadvantaged, and 10% of students with disabilities. Our community demographic is roughly 66% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 3% American Indian, and 1% African American. Acknowledging that our school demographic is not significantly diverse, the largest minority group, Hispanic, brings a great deal of diversity and culture to the classroom. Students express desires to select Hispanic music, acknowledge and celebrate cultural holidays like Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Los Muertos. Lakeport is the county seat of Lake County, located approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento, and characterized by mountainous terrain. Its major topographical feature is Clear Lake that is the state’s largest, natural fresh water lake.
Introduction of Imani & Sight-Reading
My project about African culture music is designed for a high school concert band class of students ranging from 9th through 12th grades. Students will receive Sean O’Loughlin’s Imani sheet music to rehearse and perform. Imani literally means “faith” and is a celebratory work for Kwanzaa. Imani utilizes African musical techniques and trends. Rather than rehearsing and performing the music alone this unit is designed to incorporate not only music vocabulary and technique but it elaborates to include broader concepts of examining music theory through African music listening examples, plus adding the cross-curricular content of a brief African history/geography overview.
This unit is designed to examine students’ prior knowledge of African music and history. Then teach students an introductory overview of African history, musical trends, and techniques. I encourage you to collaborate with a colleague, such as a fellow history teacher, who can supplement and team-teach some points about African history. The culmination of the unit is a performance of Imani. The lessons are designed to be incorporated into a typical high school concert band rehearsal. Although I have designed three lessons, they may be divided into shorter segments taught over a longer period of time to allow for rehearsal time.
Students improve their performance skills by sight-reading Imani. I always encourage my students to think of sight-reading much differently than a performance or even rehearsal of a piece we are working on. When sight-reading, it is important to play boldly and intelligently by specifically: looking ahead, never giving up and observing patterns are keys to a successful sight-reading. Through practice, individuals will improve their sight-reading skills.
Particularly in this opening lesson it is important as a teacher to frame the boundaries of discussion to ensure respect of diversity and culture. I found that most of my students had never heard African music before. By explaining the importance of respecting culture is crucial to any lesson. By establishing this early on we are teaching students how to appreciate and respect other cultures.
- Assessment in two places
- Cultural responsiveness in two places
Actual student performance will be the culminating activity of this lesson. The performance could be a spring concert or competition. My students and I performed Sean O’Loughlin’s Imani as part of our festival repertoire at California Music Educators Association (CMEA) festival. My students did a fantastic job performing, and additionally when asked by our festival clinician about the meaning of Imani and African music, many of my students’ hands flew up and they were eager to share some of the facts they had learned from this unit.
What was most successful about this unit/lesson?
The performance of Imani at our CMEA competition was fantastic. Students not only played the challenging technical passages well, but students played with energy and passion. Students performed polyphonic rhythms, polyphonic harmonies, and all 18 percussionists performed a unique and important part highlighting percussion as a central instrument in African culture. One final aspect of the Imani performance that was memorable and meaningful which employed an African trend was singing as a group within Imani. This is the first time my students have sung within our repertoire and it was challenging at times, but rewarding to hear students gain more confidence and better pitch as we rehearsed. In fact, our brief Imani chorus became our anthem throughout this school year. Students would spontaneously break out into Imani song in the most interesting places, such as on a fieldtrip while riding the bus and in the stands at a football game.
What might you try or change next time you teach this lesson?
Understanding now how little students knew about African music and culture, I would approach the lesson differently. When designing the lesson I assumed students would have a rudimentary knowledge of African history and culture. I was deeply surprised to learn they knew very little and I ended up changing my lesson to include an introductory element to African history and culture.
As a result of the use of culturally and linguistically responsive strategies, what do you now understand about your students’ knowledge, skills, strengths, interests, and/or capacities?
I am happily surprised to learn that my students are quite open to music of different cultures. I was pleased to learn that students had gone home and researched not only African music and downloaded full versions of some of our listening excerpts but they had broadened their search to include other music from the world genre. Plus, now as students enter my classroom some of them ask, “What do you have for us to listen to today Mrs. Ingram. We want to listen to something we’ve never heard before.”
I was surprised to learn upon undertaking the lesson that student knew very little about African history, even some of the major historical events such as Apartheid. It was fulfilling to find students excited about the discussion and the listening examples. Students were eager to listen to more African music on their own at home. Due to the great interest in this lesson, directly following the conclusion of this lesson I continued into a lesson about the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and its music. We were able to make connections from African music to music of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, recognizing similar techniques from each genre.