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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

BEN VREELAND, A Liberty fifth grader, plays in the percussion section during Thursday’s Language of Music clinic at Liberty Central School.

Speaking Musically

By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY — November 13, 2001 – “Music is the only language that spans the entire universe of learning,” said Gary E. Siegel, director of music at Liberty Central School District (K-12) and director of the Liberty Middle School Band.
On Wednesday night, Siegel and the 90-member Middle School Band presented a 60-minute clinic to introduce parents to the varied academic demands of playing a musical instrument. In addition, Siegel used a Powerpoint slide show to explain the “hows” and “whys” of music education.
“Playing a musical instrument requires a complex combination of intellectual, visual, physical and auditory control coupled with high-level thinking and problem-solving skills,” added Siegel.
The audience had a unique perspective during the clinic, as they were seated around the band members, not in front of them as in a traditional concert setting. In the clinic, everyone faced the director.
“This behind-the-scenes view of what happens in learning the language of music is a productive and effective way to communicate just how complex, intense and beautiful music really is,” said Siegel.
During the “Language of Music” clinic, Siegel directed the band through several practice sessions section by section: flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, French horn, trumpet, trombone, baritone horn and percussion.
This is not an unusual event for a district which prides itself on top-notch musical education. Numerous Liberty graduates have gone on to become professional musicians, music educators, music therapists and recording engineers.
Other grads continue to use their skills through participation in amateur community groups such as the Callicoon Center Band, the Delaware Valley Opera or the Sullivan County Community Chorus.
Siegel said the study of music is interdisciplinary, as it involves the language arts, reading, history, art, mathematics, physical education, science and writing.
Liberty’s director of music said the benefits of learning music include enhancing higher brain function, raising IQ scores (the “Mozart Effect”), providing important experiences, increasing SAT scores, teaching the habit of excellence, developing quick and decisive thinking, enhancing cooperation and preparing children for the future.
According to Siegel, he started the “Language of Music” program about six years ago as a way of introducing “all the stakeholders” to what goes on in a middle school music class.
“It’s not just going to a concert and seeing a wonderful performance,” he said. “The nuts and bolts of music education is what this clinic is all about. . . . It shows how the students use their problem-solving skills and thought processes.”
Gary Siegel’s mother Marjorie attended the clinic and afterwards gave her son a pat on the shoulder for a job well done.
“I sit through all the concerts, and I love every one of them,” she said. “The kids make a sound that’s out of this world. You’d never think they were that young.”
Marjorie Siegel said her son started playing the piano when he was about four or five years old and picked up a trumpet a couple of years later.
“You never had to tell him to practice – he just did,” she recalled.
Gary Siegel graduated from Livingston Manor Central School in 1976. Jim Newton, his former high school music teacher, now directs the famed Callicoon Center Band.
“The younger you start music education, the more you can develop your skills,” said Siegel. “The joy of music comes from watching kids work at developing the skills, feeling proud and building their self-esteem.”

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