British School to collaborate with Juilliard School

Students at the British International School of Boston practice their musical instruments.  (Courtesy Photo)

Students at the British International School of Boston practice their musical instruments.
(Courtesy Photo)

The British International School of Boston (BISB) will be collaborating with the Juilliard School, a renowned performing arts conservatory in New York, to enhance their music and performing arts curriculum starting in Sept. 2016.

The Juilliard School is a world-renowned performing arts conservatory in New York with notable alumni, such as Robin Williams, Miles Davis, Yo-Yo Ma, and Viola Davis.

BISB at 416 Pond St. is one of the first schools that Juilliard has collaborated with, and they will co-write curricula for music and performing arts classes.

The collaboration is through Nord Anglia, which acquired BISB in the spring of 2013. Nord Anglia is a school management group with 42 schools around the world. Juilliard will be implementing the enhanced curricula simultaneously into all Nord Anglia schools.

The collaboration will include updated curriculum and engagement with Juilliard alumni and affiliated artists. The new arts curriculum, developed by experts at Juilliard and Nord Anglia Education, will focus first on music, and the performing arts will be rolled out in coming years.

“Juilliard had been looking into creating this curriculum for a K-12 school, and Nord Anglia is the first in the world to get to collaborate with them,” said Danielle Gagnon, assistant director of admissions and marketing at BISB.

According to a press release, Joseph W. Polisi, president at the Juilliard School, said, “In collaborating with Nord Anglia, we have a unique opportunity to share our expertise, offering those studying at Nord Anglia schools the chance to learn from the best that our two institutions can offer. We believe that the performing arts should have a significant role within today’s global educational environment. By working with Nord Anglia, we can reach students from around the world to cultivate their skills and help guide them in their future growth.”

The music curriculum is designed for all students, not just those who are serious about learning an instrument or musical performance. It is based around 12 multicultural core works that will cover a diverse spread of genres throughout history, including artists like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Thelonious Monk, and traditional Chinese compositions.

The curriculum relies heavily on the musical keyboard to teach basic skills such as reading music, said BISB head of music David Rees, and that it will provide greater variety and depth to music and performing arts learning at the school. It focuses largely on “cultural literacy,” in addition to learning how to play the music, said Rees.

“The styles of music we explore will have a positive knock on impact in other subjects as we will be looking at historical moments from years gone by, combined with studying different cultures and changing movements across the performing arts,” Rees said.

“At the higher end of the school, there are certainly key students who are interested in going into music or theater at a professional level,” said William Bowry, English and drama teacher at BISB. “I think it would be wonderful if they could go down to Juilliard to see the acting and training. The world of professional theater seems a mystical land to them. This offers a bridge to them.”

The collaboration with Juilliard doesn’t provide BISB students a greater advantage for admission to the conservatory, said Gagnon.

“There’s a connection to people actively working in the field, but no connection for admission,” she said. “We’re not a performing arts school, but we’re viewing this as a really great addition to our academic offering.”

The curriculum is also expected to have benefits to the rest of the curriculum at BISB. Rees cited many links between music-oriented brains and learning math, history, and geography, saying that the new music curriculum will not only have a great value for the arts department, but also for the other disciplines of education.

Maurice Fakoury, head of world languages at BISB, said that playing an instrument or singing also has a lot in common with language skills.

“Authentic pronunciation is like playing the right notes, correct grammar and syntax is like learning to read and write music, and ultimately all language production is something of a performance, much like playing or singing to an audience,” he said.

The collaboration will also include a two-week program to be held in Switzerland in July 2016, which will include drama, dance, voice, and instrumental training. That program will be open to all students around the world, not just those attending Nord Anglia schools.

“It’s expected to be an annual program open to students of all abilities,” said Gagnon about the Switzerland program. “There will also be benefits to the community in terms of strengthening our own music program. We plan on hosting community events with these alumni and artists, so there can be more celebration of music in the community.”

[This article has been updated.]


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