Episode 172: Dispelling Myths About Middle School with Ian Henning and Jacob Garcia

Over the years, this Podcast has been a place for many types of conversations, on a variety of topics. But, one of the recurring passions of mine has been the reimagining of the way we teach literacy. Drawing upon the literature known as the “science of reading,” I started noticing that in music education, we have been woefully behind the times. In the Choralosophy Music Literacy Suite, I have collected several resources from the show’s catalogue to attempt to address this. Since, we started I have heard from hundreds of colleagues that are revolutionizing their classroom environments. They are using the piano less, or not at all. Spending less and less time after school making practice tracks, and putting more responsibility on their students.

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While this is exciting, the “a cappella rehearsal” concept has not been without it’s detractors. Especially from teachers of younger students. “Sure, this may work with advanced kids, but not my 6th graders.” Or, “that sounds like something that would work great in a privileged suburban high school, but not at my school.” Or, simply, “my kids aren’t ready for this. Maybe I will try it when they are more advanced.” Ultimately, all of these impulses are off the mark. Music is a language, and language acquisition is easier the younger we are! We should be starting the process of audiation and literacy as SOON as possible. We don’t have time to wait.

For this episode, I spoke to TWO middle school choir teachers who have students in grade 6-8 who are having incredible growth and success in a short time encorporating “Choralosophy” Concepts like not playing notes for kids on the piano, and small group testing, and individual literacy assessments for accountability and individual feedback. Tune in as Ian and Jacob describe passionately the ways that they have taken the ideas they have heard here, and adapted them and made them their own. We also get to hear the ways these things have revolutionized their classroom culture and behavior.

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Jacob Garcia is the choir director at Tennyson Middle School in Waco, Texas. He is in his 4th year of teaching and enjoys empowering his students to be independent and creative musicans. Jacob graduated with a Bachelor in Music Education from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Master in Choral Conducting from Texas Tech. While he enjoys teaching he also enjoyes learning mee ways to decolp hos craft and further his knowledge of music education.

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Ian Henning is the 6-12 Choir Teacher at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, Colorado. An Illinois native, Ian graduated from North Central College with a Bachelor of Arts in Voice Performance before moving to Colorado in the summer of 2020. Since then he has been teaching and performing throughout the state in a variety of roles, honing his craft as a musician and mentor. Ian is a dedicated learner who is always striving to improve in his personal and professional pursuits, and hopes one day to become a teacher capable of giving his students the music education they deserve. Ian is a member of the Colorado Chorale, the state’s premier volunteer community choir, and The Storytellers, an a cappella quartet delivering memorable and meaningful performances via musical storytelling in and around the Denver area.

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