By Alexia Boyarsky
The orchestra office is newly organized with arranged shelves of folders lining the walls. In a corner a piano stands with sheet music opened on top, ready to be played.
âThis room looks very nice now,âÂ new performing arts teacher William McClain said. âIt did not look like this before school.â
McClain hopes to establish a âprofessional airâ in the orchestra this year, starting with the way classes are runâhe expects students to be in class punctually, with their instruments set up and ready to work.
âIt makes orchestra a little stiffer at first,â he said, âbut we work faster and then we have more fun. It makes the concerts more interesting, and the end product is better.â
The concerts will also be structured differently. McClain will have a theme for each concert for which will be incorporated into the individual pieces.
The first half of the program will include smaller works, while the second part will involve a large piece of music that builds to a climax.
While in previous years Concert Orchestra, composed of the âless experiencedâ players, only played at the winter concert, this year they will perform alongside the Symphony Orchestra, as well as the newly formed Chamber Orchestra at every concert, McClain said.
Chamber Orchestra, created by McClain as a âgoalâ for other musicians, is designed similarly to a jazz combo, McClain said.
The class consists of a small group of students chosen from a larger orchestra who play advanced music specifically composed for smaller orchestral groups.
âThese are the people weâll send out to represent our program,â McClain said. âThey are the students who have worked particularly hard and who played very good auditions.â
However the group is not closed to other members of the orchestra. As the year progresses, musicians will be able to move into Chamber Orchestra and are expected by McClain to have that goal in mind.
McClain has also changed seating arrangements among the standard orchestras.
While previously members were seated according to their rank by experience and ability, this year both Symphony and Concert Orchestra are designed based on a âbuddy system,â he said.
Students are grouped together in pairs based on how McClain thinks they can help each other.
âItâs a rewarding system,â McClain said. âNot just for me, but itâs also rewarding for the students. In the end, there will be a strong sense of identity.â
McClain also wants to work on strengthening the importance of music in the studentsâ daily lives.
He hopes that students can devote three hours of their time weekly to study music, just as they do with their regular classes.
âIn order to have a complete education, you have to include the arts,â he said. âThey deserve the same level of commitment and the same level of excellence.â
In coming to Harvard-Westlake, the hardest thing to adjust to for McClain was working in such close quarters with the jazz and the choral arts classes.
Unused to hearing different types of music played in close quarters, he had to get accustomed to teaching while hearing snatches of singing or jazz float down the hall.
âFor someone walking down the hallway, it can be a magical experience,â McClain said. âYou hear the same students, and theyâre making all this music.â