Creative class gives students freedom

By RUBY BRUNK

News intern

It isn’t a well-known fact that Jazzy Cohen sings.

Most people know her as an athlete, excelling in soccer and in track. The senior doesn’t let many people know about her talent as a pianist and her unique and beautiful voice.

She records her own CDs, and was also the lead in the popular high school band “Zipha” two years ago.

Cohen’s talents are just one example of what’s happening in the second-year class known as Music Independent Study at Hood River Valley High School.

As the name suggests, this class is a safe-haven where student musicians are free to write, practice, and perform their own music.

“There are many students with musical interests that go beyond performing groups such as band and choir,” said Music Director Mark Steighner.

“This class gives them a chance to play guitar, work on song writing and recording, music theory, and learn from each other.”

Because of its focus on independence, students in this class are encouraged to work on their own, but may ask for assistance from Steighner whenever it is needed. “Students in the class design their own curriculum — they decide what they want to work on, what skills to improve, and what projects they would like to undertake. They plan the steps that will help them reach their goals and I act as a provider of resources-books, techniques, information, etc.” Steighner said.

Rob Chrisman is one of two original students in Music Independent Study. As a guitarist, Chrisman is known for his dedication. The 18-year-old senior has been playing since the seventh grade. He put his skills to work as the lead guitarist and vocalist for the local band 2% last year, but because the rest of the band has graduated, he is now working solo.

Chrisman is currently using his class time to write and produce a new song. “I’m doing the whole thing myself: guitars, drums, bass, vocals ... everything,” he says. Chrisman is a big advocate for Music Independent Study.

“I feel that this class has given me a chance to further my knowledge of music, and perfect my skills,” he said.

“I feel honored to be part of the first of many groups to go through this program.” Chrisman plans on studying music in college, and pursuing a career in the music business.

Like Chrisman, Cohen has been focusing on solo work this year.

Cohen is a second-year veteran in Music Independent Study, and is currently studying piano material and music theory.

When asked what she liked most about the class, Cohen replied, “The freedom. Oh wait ... the independence. We plan our own curriculum. I like the fact that I have my own little room to work on my music. I enjoy the solitude.” Cohen plans on applying to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. She would like to join the music business, as a songwriter or a producer.

The popularity of the class is evident, as enrollment has tripled since last year. Unfortunately, Music Independent Study shares a problem that is common in many HRVHS classes.

“The only drawback to the class is space and resources. There aren’t enough rooms and equipment for everyone,” Steighner said.

Students taking the class are graded with a progress review at the end of the quarter, and a showcase performance at the semester. The progress review is essentially just the students performing for the class and Steighner.

The showcase performance will be during the Winter Concert at HRVHS. The talent and effort put forth by Steighner and these students promises that this year’s performance will be a definite success.

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