Young boys singing

Brian Wis



Where do you teach?

St. Charles North High School, ILMEA District 9

What do you teach?

Concert Orchestra (two sections), Symphonic Orchestra, Wind Symphony - I teach about 130 students per day. I also work with our Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra at various times of the year. I am also the Lead Teacher for Music at SCN.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

In the macro sense I would say that getting to see lives changed for the better through music is the most satisfying part. In the micro I would say watching students share their hard work with audiences on performance nights.

What makes the music program at St. Charles North High School unique?

At St. Charles North we work diligently to support and provide opportunities for all areas of the department equally. For example, all of our "capstone ensembles" have presented performances at the state convention, which includes our Bel Canto, Chorale, Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Vocal Jazz Lab, Vocal Jazz Workshop, and Jazz Workshop. I wouldn't say that this is unique for our state, but it is rather unusual. Our music boosters support the entire department, rather than having separate booster groups.

What do students get from the music program that they do not get anywhere else in school?

Students learn that the artistic pursuit of perfection is an important part of their education. This is different that "being a perfectionist." Pursuing artistic perfection, knowing full well that you cannot be perfect, is what musical excellence is all about.

What are the top five reasons students are involved in music at St. Charles North?

-To collaborate on something with others that is both meaningful and satisfying

-To express themselves as artists

-To bring joy to others through music

How has ILMEA involvement benefitted the educators, students and music education at St. Charles North?

ILMEA has provided opportunities for our students for which we are very grateful. Our students have participated in the festivals at both the district and state level, and as I mentioned earlier all of capstone ensembles have presented performances at the state convention. We have also sent students to the Future Music Educators and Composition tracks at the convention.

What are your educational goals for this year?

Our goal every year is to move students toward owning their own musicianship and to provide them with opportunities to present that musicianship in settings that are meaningful. For example, we just returned last week from Carnegie Hall with our Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. Our students' lives were forever changed for the better through music presented in one of the word's great concert halls.

How do you incorporate assessment and standards-based learning in your music curriculum, and how does it benefit your students?

Our main tools for assessment are SmartMusic and a suite of custom literacy apps that I have written for iOS. Our belief is that a strong understanding of the components of music provides for a deeper understanding of music investigated and performed in ensembles.

Please share something with new teachers that you have found helpful in your life.

Know the core repertoire. Young teachers should not program any new music for the first several years of their careers, so they can develop proper taste and the ability to evaluate new music through the lens of our best repertoire. When you stand on the podium, don't see an ensemble, see individuals for whom you care, deeply.

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