Bryan’s orchestra program is very much on the national map.

The proof is in the reality that Bryan City Schools Orchestra Director Brandon Gordon has been selected as one of just 16 school music directors from 50 applicants (one from each state) to take part in a program that looks to change the way music is taught in America, essentially seeking to have it fall closer to modern problem-based learning classrooms and put the onus for learning more in the hands of students.

“It’s an honor, I would have never imagined I would be selected, especially being someone from a smaller town, I think it’s a big deal,” said Gordon. “It’s not just me being selected, it’s the Bryan orchestra, Bryan, Ohio is being represented. It’s garnering attention.”

To even become eligible for selection in the National Association for Music Education’s professional development program, titled “Experiential Ensembles,” Gordon was first nominated by the Ohio Music Education Association.

“Music education, like everything else, is finding ways to continue to evolve and be relevant to our 21st century learners,” said Gordon explaining the ideology behind the program. “The idea behind this pilot program is to find new ways to rehearse our kids, to keep them engaged and also to instill a stronger level of maturity, for them to take more ownership of the ensemble.”

Gordon and his 15 fellow educators have been learning via webinars, and already begun things like showing their groups the whole score as a way of driving home theory concepts and understanding the big picture of a given piece so they are more equipped to make their own adjustments.

“The first meeting we’ve been talking about how to get the director to not be the focal point of the ensemble, standing on the podium constantly telling students what they’re doing wrong or need to fix,” said Gordon “It’s becoming more that the director is the facilitator and asking questions to get the students to actually provide the answers rather than the teacher. It becomes more student driven.”

“We want them to open their ears and listen to what’s going on and take ownership.”

This year, Gordon will travel to Dallas for the National Association for Music Education’s national convention where he will watch lab ensembles featuring highly touted musicians who utilize the practices.

Gordon said he has already begun implementing the principles of the program in his classrooms from fifth and sixth graders up to his high school students.

“It’s already making a big difference,” said Gordon.

After the convention, Gordon and others will continuously conference about the efficacy of their efforts.

“Experiential Ensembles” is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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