Band, Orchestra, Choir & DramaThe Merrillville High School Music Department offers all students the opportunity to further their knowledge in the performing skills, musical notation reading skills and general musicianship, and a better understanding of aesthetics. However, the students opportunity to work and cooperate with other students in a performing organization to achieve an artistic goal is the most important and unique aspect of music education.
Merrillville High School has a full slate of choral offerings for our vocalists. The Varsity Choir is designed for freshman girls while the Concert Choir is composed of boys and upperclass girls. Both groups perform a variety of music literature ranging from classical to contemporary and present four concerts during the school year. The Girls Show Choir and the Mixed Show Choir are composed of advanced students and focus on the theatrical aspects of music and choreography. The Vocalteens is an elite group of show choir students who showcase their talents through song and dance. The Vocalteens are constantly in demand for performances throughout the community and are fine ambassadors of goodwill for Merrillville High School. Each year all choral students are given the unique chance to travel to Indiana University for a "weekend at the opera" during the month of April.
The Merrillville High School Orchestra is composed of string players grades nine through twelve. The Orchestra has experienced a growth spurt in the last three years and has more than doubled in size. Orchestra students take an annual field trip to a performance of the Chicago Symphony and tour one of America's leading string instrument sales and repair shops located in Chicago. In addition to three formal concerts presented to the public, the high school string players perform at each of the district's five elementary schools and participate in the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) Organization Contest. Further, students with advanced playing skills are encouraged to audition for the Indiana All-State Orchestra and, in recent years, several students have been selected for this august group. Finally, string players are encouraged to form independent trios and quartets which enhances their knowledge of genre and provides a variety of musical performance outlets.
The instrumental music program also includes the Concert and Symphonic Bands. Concert Band enrollment consists of freshmen; upperclassmen may also enroll on a secondary instrument (different from their primary instrument played in Symphonic Band.) The Symphonic Band is an advanced level group designed to challenge the skill of every member. The bands present three public concerts during the school year and perform in the ISSMA Organization Contest. In addition, the Symphonic Band is featured each year at the American Legion Memorial Day Observance. During the summer and fall students in the Concert and Symphonic Bands combine to form the Band of Pirates (marching band). The Band of Pirates appear in numerous parades, community events, home football games and Band Day programs sponsored by state universities. Rounding out the band program are the Jazz Band and Pep Band; these organizations are not a part of the daily curriculum but play an important part in the life of the school. Membership in these groups is open to any Merrillville High student either by audition (Jazz Band) or participation in rehearsals/performances and the ability to play a wind or percussion instrument (Pep Band).
In addition to public concerts, music students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the numerous performance opportunities available in Northwest Indiana and beyond. Every music student has the chance to gain valuable solo and small group performance experience through participation in the ISSMA District Solo & Ensemble Contest and many students advance to the State level in this competition. The Northwest Indiana Youth Orchestra has several string and wind players from Merrillville High School on its roster; our youth have also appeared in concert with state-sponsored music groups through selection and audition (Indiana Music Educators Honor Band, All-State Orchestra.) Further, a local barbershop chorus has been working closely with our choral department to encourage young vocalists in the pursuit of this art; as a result several independent barbershop quartets have sprung up and will perform this spring. Finally, instrumental and vocal music students become involved in school and community-sponsored musical theater productions. In the past year five such productions have taken place on our campus and have included a large number of MHS musicians both on stage and in the pit orchestra.
The music department has presented many performances outside of Indiana. The choir has travelled to Kentucky as a participant in a show choir contest and has performed aboard ship in the Bahamas as a part of the Atlantic Festival at Sea. The band appeared in the nationally televised 1994 Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade and the Jazz Band was feature musical group at the Pegasus Parade Float Preview Party. The Jazz Band will perform this spring at a Music in the Parks Festival site, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio. Finally, within the last year the choir, orchestra and band have all performed in Florida for Disney Magic Music Days.
A unique aspect of the MHS music department is our state-of-the-art synthesizer lab. Students are offered the opportunity for hands-on usage of electronic keyboards and drum machines which are tied via MIDI to computers. Students enter this class with a variety of keyboard skills and progress through a course of study which includes basic music theory and keyboard skill development to four part harmony writing and complete orchestral compositions. This course of study emphasizes the use of music publishing programs and the most current technology.
In conclusion, the Merrillville High School music department provides a wealth of opportunities for students to act as spectator, learner, and performer. These experiences are multi-faceted, varied and numerous. The impact of these experiences expands musical horizons, provides a firm grounding in the aesthetics of musical arts and models the necessary steps of hard work and group effort to achieve artistic goals.