Dixon Middle School recently hosted its first College Day, with Dixon's school halls becoming a...
Cultivating self-interest, self-worth, and courage in youth can seem an intangible, difficult charge for teachers. For the students of Timpview’s Music Teacher Russell Oliphant, however, these values come harmoniously through the fine-tuning of their craft.
Oliphant’s students met the camera head-on. Several students expressed excitement at the thought of performing for a camera. When I commented that it was rare to see students excited when prompted to perform on camera, Oliphant responded, “it’s not a worry with my kids. They seriously love performing for an audience.”
The Freshman concert group tuned up and honed into a harmonious key like someone struck a tuning fork, singing “Johnny Said No.” The students sang the piece with ease, as you can see below.
Russell Oliphant grew up inundated with music. “My whole family is musically inclined– all of my siblings play musical instruments,” Russell said. “My extended family on my mom’s side use family reunions as a chance to sing with one another. I started playing music at around eight years old, and I’ve known that I wanted to be a Music Teacher.”
Russell Oliphant would never say it himself, but he’s virtuosic in his musical ability and theoretical knowledge. He plays twenty-four instruments, including rarities like the accordion and the didgeridoo. A deep understanding of music reveals itself in the outside-the-box analogies used when discussing different aspects of performance. After reviewing the technical aspects of their most recent concert, he spoke on concert etiquette, comparing background noise and discussion to “smattered graffiti over an art canvas. It unintentionally muddies the quality of their performance,” then expressing how grateful he was to see their good concert etiquette.
Seeding self-generated excitement in students is a delicate process. Oliphant shared some insights on his acapella group’s growth in both areas. “Our acapella this year has had amazing concerts recently. We’ve had a few issues with focus until our recent Saint George trip. The students selected workshops exploring the difference between unfocused and focused rehearsals. We just had our third-term concert, and it was the best concert I’ve had with this group.”
Russell Oliphant shared his hopes for students exiting his class. “I hope that they have enough music skills– even if it’s just church or college choirs– that they can move towards musical aspirations. That’s how it was in my family– music was never forced, but rather something that you choose to do out of love. Showing them the ropes to grow on their own is important. Helping instill a love of music– that’s my aim.”