The Willistonian, Est. 1881

Music Department on “Cusp of an Exciting Time”

Nat+Markey+%2720+playing+in+the+2016+Fall+Instrumental+Concert.+Credit%3A+Williston+Flickr.
Nat Markey '20 playing in the 2016 Fall Instrumental Concert. Credit: Williston Flickr.

Nat Markey '20 playing in the 2016 Fall Instrumental Concert. Credit: Williston Flickr.

Nat Markey '20 playing in the 2016 Fall Instrumental Concert. Credit: Williston Flickr.

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Williston gained two talented music teachers in the New Year. Sarah Swersey, a flutist from Northampton, will teach the Chamber and Jazz Orchestras, while David Chalfant will lead the Electronic Music Club.

“I feel we are on the cusp of a very exciting time in the evolution of Williston’s instrumental music program,” said Ms. Hume, the head of the arts department. She is happy Swersey and Chalfant are at Williston. “They are both warm, thorough and genuine people who are organized, like working with kids, and are experts in their fields.”

Swersey will teach the middle school orchestra and direct the Chamber and Jazz Orchestras. Her life has been full of music: she began flute when she was nine and fell in love. She did pre-college lessons at Juilliard in high school and then went to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She got her graduate degree from the Yale School of Music and continued playing in symphonies and doing freelance gigs throughout her life. She even lived in the Canary Islands for seven years and travelled throughout Europe in a symphony. Now she teaches at Williston, as well as Deerfield and Northfield Mt. Hermon.

“I’m really happy to be here,” she said. “People have been very welcoming and it’s really nice. It seems like a really nice place to be a student, but it also seems like a really nice place to work and to be a teacher.”

She’s excited bring her experience in orchestras and touring to her classes and clubs. “I’m really excited to be really creative with the group,” she said. Improv, a practice that is unusual in an orchestra class, is a favorite for her. “It is fun,” she said. “It might reach different kids in different ways. Maybe their music reading isn’t that great, but improv is a way for them to shine.”

Nat Markey ’20 has been playing the trumpet since third grade and attended the first meeting of Jazz Band. “The band sounded good and we had a quality meeting, planning some potential songs to play and doing some improvisation,” he said. “It was exciting to get Jazz Band back up and running after we’d had such a long down period, and I’m looking forward to future meetings.”

He said that Swersey was excited to work with everyone. “Ms. Swersey’s presence and seeming investment in the music program were quite encouraging,” said Nat.

Swersey is also focused on making the music they play “accessible” as well as teaching basic music history.

Chalfant will offer the Electronic Music Club for an hour on Tuesday nights. He comes to Williston as a current parent of a seventh grader and said he has always had a “peripheral relationship” with the school because of his locality.

Like Swersey, he also grew up in New York and became interested in music when he was nine. Since then he has composed music for plays and dance performances, toured with his popular rock band, The Nields, after graduating from Trinity College, and opened a recording studio in his home in Northampton.

He is mostly self-taught, with some internships and guidance from friends along the way. He previously taught at The Academy of Charlemont for six years. He loves teaching and is “excited to see what everyone is going to make.”

“I can help them with the tools, but the creative part is up to them,” he said. “And that’s what’s fun: everyone wants to make a different noise.”

The club will be meeting for the rest of the year from 6:30 to 7:30 on Tuesdays.

“I have a list of technical goals that I want them to learn how to accomplish,” said Chalfant. “At the end of it I hope everyone’s got if not one than a couple of pieces of music to show their progress.”

Claire Harrison ’19 went to the first club meeting and liked it. “The atmosphere was very chill which I appreciated because it meant that there wasn’t any pressure to create masterpieces right off the bat and you could take a solid learning approach,” she said.

Claire has little experience in this field, besides messing around on Garage Band when she was younger. She wanted to be a part of the club because she loves music and is interested in music production, but never had time or motivation to explore it herself. Also, she already knew Chalfant before he created the club.

“I felt like it was too good to pass up,” Claire said. She plans to go back next week. She appreciates Chalfant’s focus on teaching and making everyone feel comfortable.

“I had a really fun time last Tuesday. Plus, I’m working on a track with some wild digeridoo and banjo loops and I want to see that thing through to the end,” she joked.

Coming up for the music program is the Winter Warmer Concert on January 26. This performance is an opportunity for singers and instrumentalists to showcase their talents as well as raise money and clothing items for families in need.

 

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Music Department on “Cusp of an Exciting Time”