Art pros will help students tune up

Students at Wilton High School will enjoy a special perk this year to enhance their artistic experience.

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Wilton Education Foundation, students in arts and music programs will be able to work directly with professionals who will instruct them in small groups.

The artist-in-residence program is already under way, but will be fully engaged by early 2014.

We’re really excited to hire some professionals to help the kids improve,” said Chip Gawle, band director at Wilton High School. “It’s absolutely the most tangible way to see a real effect.”

The professionals, who are still being lined up, will assist students with lessons in various musical instruments, such as the saxophone, clarinet, flute, percussion, and more.

The professionals will supplement the lessons being taught by the teachers at the high school, while providing additional support to the students.

“Our expertise stops at a certain point, Mr. Gawle said. “When it comes to advance-level music, at a certain point my knowledge stops. I can take students so far with the flute, for instance, but a professional can get them to the college level.”

He said the high school teachers cover the brass instruments very well, but the professionals will be brought in to work with the reed and percussion players.

“Professionals have a way to explain things to students that maybe we can’t,” he said. “They know why you should have a certain reed or other things, and have different advice that they can offer. We love having the pros come in.

“All of that stuff improves the kids immensely.”

The professionals will come to the high school at various hours to assist students.

“Some will come during the school day, while some will be there after school or in the evening,” Mr. Gawle said. “We’re working it out so that some of the people will even come in the morning.”

He said the arts will be tended to as well. The fine arts will have an Arts Friday program once a month at Wilton High School.

“It’s going to be great for them,” he said. “Sculpture, painting, photography, and graphic arts will also be represented.”

On the music side, jazz rhythm, jazz sax, clarinet, and double reed sax are among the many things  students will get assistance with.

“It’s always entertaining and a lot fun for us as teachers, but with a short-term effect,” he said. “This will be for the long term. We’ll have professional assistance at things that we’re not experts at.”

His hope, and the hope of everyone involved, is that the artist-in-residence program will help the students become better performers or better artists in whatever they do. That, he feels, will manifest itself at competitions and in their performances.

While private schools can offer private lessons, it is not possible in the public school system. This will be an opportunity to have the next best thing.

The process is coming together for Wilton High School, as the grant money has allowed the music and arts programs to look into whom they will hire, if they haven’t been hired already. Mr. Gawle said they will have a “great time” hiring the professionals.

“We’re kind of starting now, but slowly, but it will be kicking on all cylinders by February.”