Making music together

Band, choir instructors teach classes at various levels, working with veterans and newcomers

Making music together

 Inside the T-Wing lies one office shared between two music instructors, Joseph Updegraff and Mark Swope. Updegraff teaches orchestra, concert band, jazz band, and two classes of guitar.

This year marks his third year teaching at Stagg.

Swope teaches beginning and show choir, musical theater, and two classes of piano. He has been teaching here for 11 years.

Every class consists of a mix of skill level, from students who have never picked up an instrument or sung before to those who can display their musical talent in several different ways.

This comes with the exception of jazz band and show choir, which tend to have students with more advanced skills since the classes themselves demand more experience.

Both music instructors enjoy teaching more than one music class. Updegraff said, “There’s definitely a love of music and honestly a love of teaching the students.”

They also like how students take more than one music class. That way, they are exploring more aspects of the musical world instead of just sticking to one type of music.

They both even encourage students to take more than one music class, or at least to learn more than one type of music, saying that the musical skills they have don’t change, just the way they perform and view music.

Students who have never played an instrument before are just as welcomed as those who have played ever since they were toddlers.

Swope said, “It’s always great to have someone new. We sometimes have students who’ve never sung, who’ve never played an instrument.”

Updegraff finds it a challenge teaching guitar because it requires a different kind of teaching style.

He’s used to teaching classes like orchestra, where the group has to learn to play together as an ensemble. In guitar, the learning is more individualized.

Despite the challenge, he’s persistent on teaching students who are willing to learn.

He also wishes to teach the students to apply what they learn in guitar to their own developing skills so they can be creative on their own.

This way students can eventually create their own tunes instead of just playing songs that already exist. After they learn to play several chords, students can learn to use them to write their own songs. Updegraff wants to leave each person with legitamate skills in music that they can use in the future.

Freshman Javier Nunez is one of several students on campus who is currently taking more than one music class this year. He is enrolled in orchestra and plays the bass. He also knows how to play the cello and has been playing it for four years.

Nunez’s second music class is guitar. He didn’t intentionally choose to be in guitar class, he was placed in it after the school year started.

He had the option to switch out but instead chose to stay to get the feel of learning how to play another instrument.

Updegraff and Swope always enjoy having new students in their classes, whether they’re in the incoming freshman class or other classes.

Swope said, “We never know what kinds of students walk in our doors.”