New MENC Book Helps Teachers Create Magical Middle School Musicals

From Little Shop of Horrors to Grease, New Book Takes Musicals to Middle School

After reading the title of Victor Bobetsky’s new book, The Magic of Middle School Musicals, one might ask, “What’s so magical about middle school musicals?”

Bobetsky has a ready answer: “We all know how typically self-conscious and unfocused middle school students can be. Learning to work together on a musical can be a transformational experience for them, giving them self-assurance, focus, and the skills to work together on a project that is bigger than they are.”

How will Bobetsky’s book benefit teachers? “This book gives many strategies and tips for success for anyone interested in planning and producing musicals in middle school and other levels too,” he says. “It covers all the bases: selecting the right musical for your students and school, arranging the music for those difficult middle school voices, and working effectively with student actors and dancers. It shows how to put on a musical with today’s limited resources, how to involve your colleagues in other subject areas, and how to make the musical the theme of a schoolwide unit of study. In short, it’s a blueprint for a high profile success.”

A former middle school music teacher, Bobetsky has also supervised Pre-K–12 music teachers in several school districts. He is now an associate professor of music at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he directs the teacher education program in music.

Bobetsky added, “The material in this book comes from my own experience as a middle school music teacher and from many hours of interviews with other experienced teachers in music, theatre arts, dance, art, and other subject areas.”

“It should help anyone who is interested in staging a musical, from drama basics, how to arrange middle school voices, creating basic choreography, to working with the art teacher to create sets,” Bobetsky said, adding that he also aims to help teachers from different disciplines to work together.
Some theatrical works lend themselves to studies in English, history and/or social studies.

Magic also offers tips on selecting a musical to perform. Bobetsky said in the past he directed middle school productions of musicals ranging from Little Shop of Horrors to a “sanitized” version of Grease.

Bobetsky also gives ideas on getting school officials like the principal involved. A middle school musical also can attract strong parent involvement, he said. “It may seem a bit daunting at first, taking on a big project like this, but once you get started, the energy from the kids, from school officials and from the community will help you make the middle school musical an annual event,” the author said.

Bobetsky began his career in music education as a middle school choral director in Brooklyn, New York, where he worked with colleagues in other subject areas to produce the annual spring musical. His choral arrangements for middle school voices are published by Boosey and Hawkes, Cambiata Press, GIA Publications, and Musica Russica.

MENC and Rowman & Littlefield Education copublished The Magic of Middle School Musicals, now available. MENC members receive a 25% discount off the list price of $60.00 for hardcover and $24.95 for the paperback version.

Visit Rowman and Littlefield Education  to order the book.

 — Roz Fehr, January 23, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education