New Arrangements in the New Year

Ann Forman, who has been the orchestra director of River Trails School District 26 in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, for 23 years, believes that today’s students and teachers are lucky because of the influx of more modern arrangements of classical pieces. These arrangements have the advantage of being easily accessible for young players and faithful enough to the original pieces to give students a deeper understanding of musical eras and styles.

Forman cites arrangements by a number of newer composers like Elliot del Borgo, Richard Meyer, William Hoselde, Richard Stephan, and Charles Woodhouse as being particularly sound musically and also a fine match for student performers. One arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” by John Caponegro proved to be a real success with Forman’s fifth graders. “They just loved it,” she says. “It gave these kids a glimpse of what Beethoven wrote, and the kids felt a connection to that.”

Once Forman has taught pieces from individual eras, she helps students make the links between time periods, challenging them to identify which one came first, which led into the next, and why a new style might have evolved. She teaches them how genres built off of each other so that her classes understand the relationships between periods. With a combination of historically sensitive pedagogy and new high-quality arrangements, it is easier than ever for a student string musician to gain a full and rewarding music education.

This article has been adapted from an article in the January 2009 issue of Teaching Music by Cynthia Darling. Turn to page 51 to read the full article.

— Nicole Springer, December 15, 2009, © National Association for Music Education.