Letter to Prospective Music Students

Cathy Block - Solebury School

From Music / Dance Department Head Cathy Block

Solebury is a school that is accustomed to breaking new ground. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than our music program.

Solebury School's music program is current, it is innovative, and perhaps most of all, it is unique. Much of this is because it is inhabited by a faculty of working music professionals with real-world experience in the music industry and performance arena. They bring their contacts, expertise, and experiences into the classroom, as well as creating inventive classes that offer unusual opportunities for students. When you have teachers who have written songs for icons like Diana Ross, or worked with legends such as Leonard Bernstein and Mislav Rostropovich, much is possible.

Additionally, we have several performance ensembles. In the spring, the music department has a contest for student bands, duos, etc -- one or two groups go to Morningstar Recording Studio and record a demo, working with Grammy-winning engineer Glenn Barrett. Other students are invited to come along for the trip for the experience. This event happens during Arts Festival, a week devoted to the arts, where many workshops and events are available to all students.

Our courses are always evolving, as we often respond to the needs and desires expressed by the current student body. The fact is, you’d have to be in college to find many of the music courses that we offer at Solebury. And even colleges may not offer them, as they are wholly unique and created by Solebury teachers. Here is just a sampling of what we offer throughout the year (some of these classes may rotate from year to year):

Indie Music and How It Is Re-Shaping the Music World
In this class, we take a deep dive into where the music industry was, how it originated and operated, and where it has landed. This class is all about how the current recording and touring artist shapes and creates a career. One of the things we do in this class is Skype or Zoom with many of the artists we cover. Some of the past artists we have Skyped/zoomed with include Clairo, Jon Batiste, The Districts (as well as a session with their manager), JukeBox The Ghost, Sidd Khosla (tv/film composer for the show "This Is US" and "Only Murders In The Building"), producer/ film composer Dan Romer (Ingrid Michaelson, and music for Beast Of The Southern Wild), and WXPN radio hosts. We've also had in-class visits and discussions with artists such as Ground Up's Alexander Charles Azar. We take questions right to the source with an insider's look into the industry

Scoring for Big and Small Band
Students learn about voicing for horns, woodwinds, and writing for rhythm section. It is an advanced course that you would find at the music college level. At the end of the trimester, students have their arrangements played.

Jazz Theory and Composition
A follow-up to the scoring class, it delves deeper into the compositional aspects of music.

Music of the 1960s
This class is all about how the music from this seminal decade changed the world and shaped the future. It is an in-depth look at the music, artists, and people who were the intellectual movers of the time. The class has often enjoyed hearing from Solebury teacher Chris Langhart, who was the technical director of the original Woodstock Festival in 1969.

A Capella Class
This class covers the basics of singing without instrumental accompaniment across different musical styles, i.e. Classical, African Folk, Doo-wop, Spirituals, Pop and more. Students learn the joy of building vocal harmonies while maintaining the rhythmic dance that characterizes a given style. It's a class designed for experienced singers, and preference is given to those who have completed at least one year of chorus. Others are admitted by audition.

Greatest Bands of All Time
This is a fun, in-depth look into the most influential bands, ever. We look at who were the first, and who might it be now, and why, from Buddy Holly and The Crickets, to Sly and The Family Stone to Nirvana, let the debates begin!

Making Music With Logic Pro
Students will become familiar with Logic, which is a widely used DAW in the recording industry. They will compose original music and score film clips using Logic, and receive feedback on their work learning compositional and arranging techniques. 

American Pop Music
Who do you listen to? From Post Malone to Beyonce, Ariana Grande to Dua Lipa, Adele to the Weeknd—what’s your jam? Starting from the minstrels of the 1800s and traveling right up to rap, we will take an illuminating journey through the ages. Listen to some great music and learn the stories that made the music you love. This is the ever-evolving and profoundly complex story of American Pop music. It might just blow your mind

This course digs deeply into the nuts and bolts of song composition. We emphasize discovering your own unique compositional voice, while developing a vocabulary and understanding of what makes other songs, and writers great.

Vocal Performance workshop
Vocal Performance Workshop is a master class on vocal training and performance. It has an emphasis on building vocal technique, learning to constructively critique peers in a workshop setting, and performing. 

Many things make Solebury a unique educational experience, and the Solebury music program is certainly one of them.