Singing in a Winter Wonderland]

Winter concerts before the holiday break have become a tradition. Students of all grade levels spend weeks and months preparing for the show, and parents relish the opportunity of getting to see their children perform live on stage. For elementary students in Granville, the winter concert represents a moment of growth and improvement.

Brent Tuttle has been teaching music in the Granville Central School District for 16 years. He’s helped organize countless concerts for students of all grade levels and abilities, and has turned each concert into a learning tool to help students grow as musicians.

“The goal is to continually improve the music program so when students cross over to the high school, they’re prepared to take their talents to the next level,” said Mr. Tuttle.

Mr. Tuttle teaches grades pre-K-6 and meets with each class once a week for 35 to 40 minutes depending on the school. Students participate in about nine classes and rehearsals before having to take the stage for the winter concert each year. Mr. Tuttle has started recording each of the concerts his students put on to help with the learning process once the concert is wrapped.

“We record the shows so the students can watch them back and critique their own performances,” said Mr. Tuttle. “We do this with every show so we can work with our students to identify what went well and what needs to be improved on. It ensures every child is mastering the standards of music performance starting at a young age.”

The concerts Granville Elementary School and Mary J. Tanner Elementary School hold are extensions of the year-long music curriculum every student participates in. Classes take part in 10 main units every school year, which includes introducing students to instruments including boomwhackers, electric pianos, guitars, and handbells, among others. Mr. Tuttle believes introducing students to as many musical concepts as possible helps each student discover his/her own areas of interest without feeling overwhelmed or forced down a specific path.

“I try to meet each student where they are personally and go from there,” said Mr. Tuttle. “We teach our general music classes in smaller group settings to introduce our kids to different concepts of music. Once they have the basic understanding, we get to see the students put these concepts into play, which is what you get to hear and see in a performance.”

One constant that stands out to Mr. Tuttle is the support the music program continues to receive from the community at large. He credits parents and fellow faculty members with helping students understand the importance of the arts, and how participating in different art programs can help students in other areas.

“I’m one of the few teachers in the district who has the same students for eight straight years. I have seen many students struggle with different subjects outside of my classroom, and I’ve seen firsthand how music has helped them overcome those struggles. While I’m the one in the classroom along with our fantastic band and chorus teachers throughout the district, it’s the community and our parents who lend an extra helping hand to keep our students motivated. Everyone wants to see students succeed in some way and be involved in something in our community.”

Mr. Tuttle, along with High School Choral Teacher Corey Cerullo, GES Band Teacher Maddie Coons, and High School Band Instructor Jessica Stout, get to see the impact their music programs are having on children every day. He believes strongly that communication is key, and having an open channel of communication without placing expectations on every performance can help students reach new levels.

“To many students, music is something that helps keep them going. Every child is unique in the way they learn, and we are all trying our best to help our kids every day no matter what it takes.”

The performance schedule isn’t contained to only end of the semester concerts. Elementary students also get the chance to perform the national anthem before an Adirondacks Thunder hockey game, and Mr. Tuttle helps his students prepare for NYSSMA competitions as well. Mr. Tuttle also spends time helping fourth, fifth, and sixth graders prepare for the spring talent show, and he assists a select group of sixth graders prepare a musical number for their moving up ceremony.

“Being that it’s their last performance with me, we try to make it something that is meaningful to the entire class.”

Overall, Mr. Tuttle credits the music program for being a doorway to deeper conversations and connections with young students.

“We all struggle from time to time, and having someone to talk to goes a long way. When I was a kid, I got involved with music and met some amazing people along the way who inspired me to become who I am today. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are with people that I’ve met through the arts. I’ve been blessed to have great music teachers inspire me over the years, and my wish is to continue to inspire students musically and push them to their fullest potential.”