Jerrod Fredrickson got a guitar about three months before he started at Weeki Wachee High School. The next step for the 16-year-old sophomore was learning to play it. When he found out the school offered a guitar class, he was keen to take it.
The school, which opened in August, has the perfect place to offer music classes, a music lab. "We have a conferencing system," said music teacher Morgan Burburan, 32, who shares the lab with the other music teacher Michael Miller, 24. "This is what many colleges offer."
As choir director, Burburan directs the Voce Novum (new voices) introduction choir, Vespa Harmonia (a small ensemble that sings a cappella and accompanied) and vocal ensemble (advanced mixed ensemble). She teaches musical theater and guitar. Miller directs the concert band, beginning band, jazz ensemble and marching band.
Since the new school only has freshmen and sophomores, the guitar class is at a beginning level. "We don't have advanced levels yet," Burburan said. "It's mostly freshmen in this class."
The lab can accommodate 16 students, all of whom wear headphones as part of the teaching method. They can listen to the teacher and play their instruments without being distracted by the others. The teacher can hook two or more students together to play duets or in groups. The whole class can be playing and the room is quiet.
"This is an excellent model of how differentiated learning can occur," Burburan said. Students can be isolated at whatever levels they have achieved, allowing her to provide the necessary, individual instruction.
Freshman Christian Braz, 15, came into the class having inherited his guitar from his musical grandmother. "I knew some small songs like, Mary Had a Little Lamb," he said. He likes the lab. "It's pretty cool how they have everything set up. You can hear the piano and guitar at the same time."
Jerrod, who had been working on a duet with Christian, added, "You can hear the piano's metronome to help with guitar."
The system features a digital recorder that can change the sound of the guitar, control volume and record while a student is playing, "to see what changes you have to make," Jerrod said.
Miller, the band director and a first-year teacher, is delighted to have the facility for keyboard lessons.
"It's magnificent," he said. "To have full-scale keyboards in a separate room devoted to lab is just great. It's a blessing to have the opportunity to work in this school, to work with these students. The facilities are awesome."
Besides the music lab, stage and classrooms, there are three soundproof practice rooms. Burburan and Miller had to be trained to learn the various aspects of the music department, including the stage, sound system, equipment and the lab. "We spent our entire summer working," Burburan said.
She and Miller have the goal of preparing their students for life after high school. "The kids will be really ready when they get out," she said. "That's the goal."