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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Wright volunteers at local high school

Friday, January 18, 2008  
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By Guest Writer

Katy King

Oklahoma Christian University senior Michael Wright is testing the waters of his prospective career while still in school.

Wright, a music education major, is volunteering as the high school orchestra conductor at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City.

For the past two weeks, Wright has entered the classroom as the primary conductor of the stringed instruments. 

John Marshall High School band director Dean McCool takes charge of the brass, woodwinds and percussion. However, his lack of experience on stringed instruments left him in need of help.

He encouraged the administration to provide an instructor with even more experience for the students in the strings section.

“I am mainly a band director, but the school hired me to teach string and band both. My main instrument is trumpet, so they needed someone to help out with the strings class,” McCool said. “They would like to build a program and give it a chance to be successful.”

The administration at John Marshall High School began contacting several surrounding universities in search for a student teacher who would possibly take the position full time after teaching for awhile.

When Oklahoma Christian music professor Kathy Thompson received the request for the position, she immediately considered Wright.

“Michael was very interested from the start. He called the administration at the high school within the next day and had it all worked out,” Thompson said.

Although he was not yet eligible for student teaching, he was well-qualified for the position.

“Since music education is his [Wright’s] major, this is a chance to see even more than a practicum would allow,” Thompson said.

The class consists of 11 students from 6th to 12th grade, and Wright meets with them Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday.

Wright’s student musicians are all on substantially different skill levels, but this is only one of the challenges Wright faced when he walked into the new program.

“We have a lot of equipment problems. The collection of instruments is weak and difficult to tune,” Wright said.

Wright took the initiative to solve this problem. With the help of a husband of a teacher at John Marshall High School, the instruments were repaired, tuned and ready to play.

“He will face the same kind of challenges any beginning teachers would face,” Thompson said.

One of the benefits of having Wright as the conductor is his access to a large repertoire of music for stringed instruments.

Having played the violin for 14 years and participated in various youth community orchestras, he is able to select achievable and appropriately challenging music for the students.

“The main thing that has been helpful is the fact that since he is a string player. He is able to show them and give them examples better than I can,” McCool said. “I can tell them, but he can show them. The kids are able to learn better if the teacher is able to show them.”

McCool is a strong believer in hands-on learning when it comes to teaching. From his experiences, he feels Wright will be better equipped as a teacher by diving right in.

“I want him to take charge of the class,” McCool said. “I’m proud of him. His conducting is fine. He has good control of the class, and I think he will be a really good teacher.”

This position will require Wright to sacrifice a majority of his extra time, but Thompson is confident he and his students will be successful.

“Not any student could handle such a job. Michael is an exceptional leader and is patient with young students,” Thompson said. “He is a very confident and perceptive person. He will learn a lot this way.”

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