Muses of music


Nazret Degaulle

“So, if I was going to demonstrate this advanced cello technique and [a private teacher is present], I can ask, hey, can you come in and show them how to play this?” Gibson said.

William Demeter, Opinions Writer

Many students at WHHS do fine arts, and some go to private lessons to improve their skills, whether it be singing or playing an instrument. Teachers often recommend students to get private lessons in order to improve their personal skills.

“Instead of going into urgent care, it’s like going to a doctor. Urgent care will patch everything up, [and] get you out the door. A doctor is gonna go ‘Okay, what’s wrong? Why is that wrong? Let’s figure out how to fix it, so it doesn’t happen again and we can get past it,’” Chris Gibson, Orchestra Conductor, said.

One private teacher, Carol Aufmann, teaches bassoon to a small group of students, ranging from seventh graders who just started playing their instrument last fall, to a 77-year-old retired doctor. Aufmann herself plays the contrabassoon, an expensive instrument that is very rare for students in high school and college to play.

“[I recommend private lessons] especially for the more unusual instruments, [like] obo, bassoon, [and] French horn,” Aufmann said. “But really, everybody will get better if they work with the teacher as long as they’re willing to do at least some of the work to continue to improve.”

Practicing helps students learn their instrument quicker and perform more complex music. In private lessons, the students typically play different music than what the orchestra, choir, or band plays. Typically, when the group is preparing for a concert, the private teacher will cancel their lesson so that the student can practice with their group.

“Having that person there who can send you down the right path [helps]. You won’t play wrong fingerings or things like that,” Aufmann said. “Those are habits that are very hard to break, so if you have somebody keeping you on track, it’s very helpful.”

There are two teachers for the orchestra classes, Gibson and John Caliguri. They manage the Chamber and Senior Orchestras together, and the Beginning, Intermediate, and Junior Orchestras separately. Gibson plays in many bands and groups over the city, and lately he hasn’t been able to go on tours but still performs concerts. One of his more well-known bands is Jake’s Speed and the Freddies, which was around for a long time before he joined eight years ago.

“So with Jake’s band, a lot of the time he just writes a song in the afternoon [and during] the show he’ll turn around and go, ‘Hey, okay, I just wrote this [song] this afternoon, you’ve never played it, [and] it’s in G. Let me start off and start playing,'” Gibson said. “It’s just a game, all the time you have to figure it out.”

Gibson planned to be a doctor in the Air Force, but he realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do. He returned to college and began taking many classes from different fields, including chemistry and business. However, he always returned to music at the end of the day.

“Both of my parents were music teachers. One did the elementary general music, and the other was a marching band and wind Ensemble band guy, so I was the holdout,” Gibson said. “I swore to myself, I was never going to do what my parents did…and here I am doing just about the exact same thing. In fact, in my office, there’s a sign that says ‘Mr. Gibson,’ it’s my dad’s sign from when he retired.”

Caliguri is the principal cellist of the Seven Hills School. He started playing the violin, but was forcefully switched to the cello when he was older. Because of his experience, he would never ask a student to play a different instrument than what they chose because he believes any student can play any instrument as long as they put work into it.

“I think it’s all personal choice and I would never try to get somebody to switch,” Caliguri said. “I wanted to play the violin, [but] I had big hands. My fourth-grade teacher said, ‘I think you should play the cello,’ [but] I didn’t want to switch at all, I was focused on that violin.”

Even though it is recommended to take lessons if you play an instrument, it isn’t required. However, if you want to get into a good orchestra, lessons are important. But plenty of people in the orchestras, choirs, bands, don’t take lessons.

“It’s one thing to be like a beginner and not take lessons, you’re like, ‘Oh I’m just experimenting, I’m doing my own thing,'” Gibson said. “But then we’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a goal and I know what I have to do to get there, [and] if I don’t get there, I’m going to be disappointed in myself. So I want to push myself to get there like that,’ [and] that only comes with that additional training.”