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BAND STUDENTS TALK TO FAMOUS COMPOSER
Albert Lea High School students are getting the experience of a lifetime. Twenty musically inclined kids are learning music composition from a world-renowned composer Wynn-Anne Rossi.
The classes are held via the Internet. Each end has a camera to transmit the lesson onto a television. Rossi instructs from the Twin Cities to students in the high school band room. Each end is able to hear and talk to each other.
"It was weird talking to the TV, having a group discussion with the TV," said junior Tyler Petersen, a student and saxophone player in the program.
In the beginning, Rossi and the students had difficulties hearing each other and making all the electronics work. But with all new technology comes technical difficulties and the students said they have been able to get past those issues.
"This is a great thing to compliment or augment what we're doing in the classroom," said band director Scott Fitzsimonds. Rossi is reiterating themes and ideas that Fitzsimonds may have mentioned in his class.
Students attend class for 40 minutes every Wednesday for 10 weeks. Lessons started Jan. 3. The course is not for credit and anyone interested was able to take the class.
Each student has homework and will write compositions based on a nature theme for the final project. The kids turn in their homework electronically using Finale Notepad, special music composition software.
"By helping us better understand the music we're playing and being able to write some of our own will help put us ahead in the long run," Petersen said.
Fitzsimonds said this opportunity is exciting because nowhere else in their music career will the students be able to work with a well-known composer and have their own compositions critiqued by a professional on this level.
"It makes us better musicians," said junior Emily Klick, another student in the program.
This opportunity was made possible by partnering with the Minnesota Schubert Performing Arts and Education Center in Minneapolis. The Center came to Fitzsimonds with the idea in the fall of 2005. Pilot classes were then hosted to test the technology and figure out logistics.
Fitzsimonds said he is interested in continuing the program for future years. "With no cost to us and nothing but positives for the students, it's definitely a partnership to keep going," he said.
At the end of the session students will have composed their own piece of music, ready to perform for their peers. Rossi will then combine the pieces to create an original music for the concert band to perform.
Rossi has worked with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and has done many classes and presentations to Minnesota schools. She has degrees from the Universities of Colorado, Illinois and Harvard.
The Schubert Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the performing arts. The center provides Minnesota students access to top dance and music artists.