This year, three district high schools have added a unified percussion ensemble program to their offerings and one high school has added it as a club.
Mead High School (MHS) paved the way for other programs by starting their unified percussion ensemble four years ago. Former Mead High School Band Director, Chad Lemons, developed the course and piloted it during the ’19-’20 school year and it has been an integral part of their band program ever since.
This year, MHS has 13 students in the Unified Percussion Ensemble and eight mentors. The program’s vision and mission is to provide a performance-based music ensemble for students in the exceptional learning program. The Unified Percussion Ensemble class at MHS is a collaboration between students, peer mentors, and special education paraprofessionals. The class is not only about music, but also about strengthening life skills. “We take some time every day to work on healthy activities, like chair yoga, and life skills, like identifying our right and left sides. All of these activities are helpful to our students’ development, but also prepare them to start drumming,” said Abby Koehler, Mead HS band director.
Silver Creek High School started their own Unified Percussion Ensemble this year and has 15 students enrolled in the class. The class is co-taught by student mentors who are also enrolled in band, choir, and orchestra classes at the school. During class, students work on music for performances, but also utilize rhythm games and other activities to add variety to the day. “We are working on music, executive functioning skills and the mentor students help with lesson planning and preparation. While I am in the room, there is a significant amount of time where I’m observing in the periphery while the students work together to get their music learned,” said Bill Legg, band director at Silver Creek High School.
The Unified Percussion Ensemble class at Skyline High School currently has eight students and is not only centered around drumming and percussion, but also about exploring music through different avenues. In class, students experience music through dancing, listening to music, watching videos, and through a lot of drumming. While the class is primarily centered around drumming and percussion, topics such as music history, theory and composition are also explored throughout the year. “Students with a wide variety of abilities and interests can share a common goal in this class, which is to grow as musicians and to perform for our community,” said Marya Haugland, Skyline High School band director.
Frederick High School has revamped their unified program to focus on unified percussion. For the past two years, the class has been offered as a unified modern band, where students learn to play guitar, bass, drums, and sing. This year students are learning percussion instruments and are working on marching percussion instruments. There are currently eight students in the class. They will be performing at a halftime performance at one of their football games this fall.
Additionally, Longmont High School started a Unified Percussion Ensemble club this year. The handful of students meet during the school day during music classes. While the ensemble is not its own class yet, it could be in the future. David Merrill, LHS band director said he’s unsure if they will change it from a club to a class, but envisions it would be neat if they did.
All unified percussion ensembles will come together at Everly Montgomery Field on Monday, October 10 at 6pm for a combined performance at this year’s St. Vrain Band Night. Click here to view the complete lineup.