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Teacher Creates His Own Innovative Courses
Kevin Lampson’s passion for music and history is motivating him to create original courses for students at Lake Lure Classical Academy.
Relying on flexibility for curriculum that the public charter school offers, Lampson is innovating courses, like the history of jazz, that are unlike anything else at schools in the state.
“Where arts education fails students is that they don’t tell the why, when or who,” said Lampson, who is in his second year of teaching at Lake Lure Classical Academy. “I try to fill in the gaps that students don’t get in other subjects.”
With original courses like The North Carolina African American Experience, and in a class instantly popular with students on the history of Rock n’ Roll, Lampson is creating many “aha” moments in students with the mostly high school students he teaches.
Lampson, 34, acknowledges that he’s really teaching sociology, but especially to give context for music appreciation, to give young musicians the cultural background to impart the full picture of the styles they’re taught to play.
“First and foremost you have to give relevancy to a student, and if you don’t do that, students aren’t going to care as much,” he said, adding the example that without context as to why Billie Holliday sang the way she did, it’s hard to fully appreciate the music.
That’s important, Lampson believes, if students continue to play music beyond school — to learn cultural context as well as the ability to improvise proficiently, which happens to be another class he’s planning to teach, in the next academic year: music improvisation.
“Students will learn more about any instrument they’re playing if they can improvise,” said Lampson, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz and Studio Music from Morehead State University.
“His enthusiasm and passion translates into everything he does,” said Thomas Keever, executive director of LLCA. “He’s a very bright young man; we’re proud to have him here.”
Curriculum director Jessica Boland agreed, adding that Lampson’s courses provide LLCA’s students with “exposure to unique topics.”
Lampson believes the well-rounded music course offerings he’s providing are a factor in retaining students — parents are liking what they see, and students are taking note, too.
“The reason I really like Mr. Lampson is that he’s gone into actual music theory,” said William Witherspoon, an 11th-grade Hendersonville resident who has taken Lampson’s guitar classes and his Music I class. “Sometime it does get a little complicated, but then he’ll explain it. I’d definitely take another class next semester.”
Lampson started teaching middle and high school band and guitar classes at the public charter school, though he began planning original courses in the summer, just in time for the school’s move to its permanent facility on Island Creek Road.
“It’s something that I haven’t seen anywhere else in education,” said Lampson, who added that he’s had nothing but support from administration and the school board for the courses he’s teaching. “It’s totally different, and it’s really important for me for people from the area to know what is happening here.”
LLCA offers education for students in grades K-12, and many are from Henderson, Buncombe and Rutherford counties, according to Lampson.
He’s pretty sure no other high school in the state offers a course like his North Carolina Music, which covers the historical context as well as the music of the Scots-Irish settlers of the state’s highlands, the history and music of the Cherokee people, North Carolina folk and bluegrass artists, and even the music of the contemporary Asheville music scene.
Tenth-grader Micah Moore, who lives in Flat Rock, decided to take Lampson’s Rock n’ Roll history class after a friend recommended it. Moore, who said he prefers hip-hop music, is appreciating rock music the more he learns from Lampson.
“It’s a lot more than I expected to learn,” said Moore of the class, which is specific enough to zero in on a single day of the 1967 Woodstock Music Festival during one day’s lecture. Whole individual weeks of the 17-week course are dedicated to Woodstock, the Southern rock scene and female icons of the 1970s, to give a few examples.
Informing all Lampson teaches are the tenets of a classical education, with a framework provided for everything students learn; for LLCA’s high school students, the school strives to impart a classical-style education. “The whole point is to get well-rounded thinkers,” Lampson said.
He believes classes like “The North Carolina African American Experience” fill in the gaps in students’ education and provide context for the post-Civil War experience of African-Americans, which in turn gives students a better understanding of current events like the protests in Ferguson, Mo.
To illustrate, Lampson poses the question: How can you learn about the music of the 1960s without learning about the history and culture of the 1960s?
To learn the roots of jazz music, a foundation of learning about the slave trade into the Caribbean, the cultural influence from France to New Orleans and the history of the Harlem Renaissance are all part and parcel of a full understanding.
“You have to put yourself in the perspective of the person who saw it,” he said. “I’m bringing students back to this stuff and they love it.”
To learn more about LLCA, call 828-625-9292 or visit llca.teamcfa.school.
Click HERE to check out our June 2016 Newsletter.
Michael Ridenour, director of the Music Academy of WNC, teaches Savannah Barnwell, 10, on Friday afternoon. Patrick Sullivan/Times-News
Published: Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 4:30 a.m.
The Music Academy of Western North Carolina has announced significant expansion plans, which includes the rollout of an afterschool program for elementary students.
The academy’s director, Michael Ridenour, said he will begin phasing in a series of new programs at the Hendersonville-based academy over the next year, expecting to add 200 more students to the school.
Starting next school year, the academy will begin offering afterschool string instruments program for fourth- and fifth-graders in Henderson County. Flyers for the afterschool program will be distributed to fourth- and fifth-grade students in Henderson County Public Schools. The afterschool lessons will be taught in a classroom setting at the academy at 235 Duncan Hill Road several times a week.
“This program within itself is a pretty big undertaking,” said Ridenour. “I think it will benefit a lot of kids in Henderson County and prepare them for other programs that already exist.”
Ridenour said there isn’t any kind of string program for elementary kids in Henderson County. Academy leaders want the afterschool program to supplement the strong programs at the middle and high schools along with the Hendersonville Symphony Youth Orchestra.
“We’re trying to accomplish a couple of goals,” Ridenour said. “Number one is just to have a good extracurricular music activity for fourth and fifth graders. Number two is to start to develop, along with the Hendersonville Youth Symphony, an elementary school ensemble. Right now, they start they start at the sixth-grade level but they don’t have anything for the elementary school kids.”
The afterschool program will roll out in September at the elementary schools. The academy also plans to offer onsite classes at new FernLeaf Community Charter School next spring.
In addition to plans for an afterschool program, the academy will begin offering online lessons later this summer using an online program called JamKazam. It is an online meeting site where musicians can play together in real time over the internet. Similar to Skype, instructors will be able to teach their students from anywhere.
“What this does is it kind of takes us outside our brick and mortar building here to where we can offer online lessons,” said Ridenour. “We can offer them here, or since we have a lot of teachers traveling from Asheville and other counties, we can actually offer online lessons and they can do them from their home, but still come through the music academy.”
The academy has about 200 students right now. Ridenour expects the afterschool programs to add 100 to 150 more students and the online lessons to add another 50 for now.
“Just those things were probably looking at a good 400 students total, and that’s kind of being conservative,” Ridenour said. “That will pretty much solidify us as the largest private music school in the county once we get these programs up and going by the end of the year.”
An afterschool program and online courses aren’t the only new additions. The academy teaches many styles of music, including classical, rock, jazz, pop and country. Now they will be adding a folk music program to the mix.
“Western North Carolina is kind of a mecca to folk music,” Ridenour. “We’ve had a lot of calls for folk music like mandolin, banjo and things of that nature, but I’ve never really found someone that was an area expert of that.”
He found that someone in Tyler Cason, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from North Greenville University and is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Georgia. Cason will be teaching folk guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, songwriting and voice in the folk music program, which is expected to roll out in full this fall.
Next spring, the academy will also begin publishing method books and publications from instructors. The academy currently has 14 instructors, most of whom hold masters or doctorate degrees in music education.
The Music Academy of Western North Carolina was founded in 1997. In 2009, the academy moved to is current location at 235 Duncan Hill Road and had since expanded three times to accommodate student growth. Ridenour said it’s likely he’ll have to expand again next year after all the expansion plans are phased in.
For more information, visit wncmusicacademy.com or call 828-693-3726.
We will be holding our annual spring recitals this coming Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening in the performance room at the Music Academy of WNC. We are very proud of all of our students, their hard work, and dedication and look forward to hearing them perform this weekend.
We would like to welcome Tyler Cason to our faculty. Tyler will be teaching folk guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, songwriting, and voice in our Folk Music Program. He holds and Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music Education degree from North Greenville University and is pursuing doctoral studies and the University of Georgia in Athens, Please visit Tyler’s faculty page for his bio and give us a call at 828-693-3726 to register for private lessons.