The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Unleashing musical magic

A deep dive into the music department’s new implementation of MVHS Music Houses
Lindsey Tang
Photo/Illustration/Infographic by John Gilchrist | Used with permission

MVHS music department directors John Gilchrist and Amy Young recently launched the Monta Vista Music Houses program — a project aimed at connecting MVHS’s music ensembles through student bonding. In the program, each music student is placed in one of six fictional houses, regardless of ensemble or instrument, remaining in their house for the entirety of their time in the music program. Points are earned through competition, honor groups and acts of service, and can be deducted if a student commits mischief such as bringing food into the band and choir room. At the end of the school year, the house with the most points wins a celebratory feast. 

The idea first came to Gilchrist after playing Hogwarts Legacy, an action, role-playing video game based on the Harry Potter series. In the Wizarding World, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has four houses that represent different qualities and traits: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Similar to the Hogwarts Houses, Gilchrist began to think about which composers would make excellent house founders, choosing diverse figures with different first letters of last names to create more variety between house names. 

“We have house Berlioz, which represents imagination because he was a very imaginative composer that wrote Symphonie Fantastique, a kind of imaginative work. Another one is house Hildegard, [with] trait [of] vision, and Hildegard of Bingen supposedly had prophetic visions of the music that she would compose,” Gilchrist said. “House Mahler [is] known for his very grand and powerful symphonies [and] his trait is power. Tchaikovsky [is] known for deeply expressive music, and his trait is passion. Sibelius [is] known for his love of his homeland, [so] his trait is pride. [Then] there’s Copland, known for his wisdom and love of simple things, [so] his trait is wisdom.”

Berlioz’s house color is purple, Hildegard is orange, Mahler is red, Tchaikovsky is blue, Sibelius is green and Copland is yellow. Mahler corresponds to the Gryffindor House, Tchaikovsky the Ravenclaw House, Sibelius the Slytherin House and Copland the Hufflepuff House. Gilchrist explains his design process and the reasoning behind why he selected each composer.

“I wanted to have composers that are very famous, recognizable and historically relevant, and that might represent different things [and] have different national backgrounds,” Gilchrist said. “I thought about what trait is associated with their music or them as a person.”

Young worked alongside Gilchrist during this project, touching upon how the use of AI helped them create the portraits of each of the house composers. 

“He and I picked six composers that represented a variety of backgrounds, in terms of what kinds of pieces they compose [and] what country they’re from,” Young said.

Gilchrist and Young implemented this creation to increase community and bonding across the band, orchestra and choir classes, after noticing that a lot of musicians tended to isolate themselves from other ensembles that they were not a part of. Gilchrist also mentioned that one of his goals was for upperclassmen to take this opportunity to invest in younger members of the program, providing seniors with more of a leadership role.

Graphic by Lindsey Tang

“A lot of the time, I noticed that seniors got to their senior year and they kind of checked out rather than paying it forward,” Gilchrist said. “A few years from now, our younger members of the program are going to be the seniors and the leaders of the program, so I wanted to think of a way to connect seniors and juniors with the younger classes to encourage and inspire them to one day take their place.”

Sophomore and Chamber Orchestra member Arielle Fam agrees that the goal of MV Music Houses was to allow musicians of different instruments, ensembles and grades an opportunity to become more closely connected through games and activities. As a member of House Mahler, she also says the implementation serves as a good incentive for better behavior in class and more participation across the classes.

“You can get points for participating in competitions and All-State, so participation would probably go up,” Fam said. “If there’s an incentive, generally, people are less willing to break band room rules, so that they don’t drag everyone else down.”

In addition to building community, encouraging participation and keeping students accountable for following rules, Young agrees with the sentiment that MV Music Houses allows individuals to establish closer connections with one another on a smaller scale through activities such as icebreakers.

“We’re excited to do things both in-class and program-wide, so this is a great way to split up into teams within an ensemble to just create some fun in the spirit of competition,” Young said. “[We can] do Kahoots and little in-class games as an easy way to get people onto teams, to build community [and] help us focus on smaller communities within the larger community.”

Ultimately, the program directors aspire to maximize community building while having fun and hopefully establishing a long-lasting tradition for the future of Monta Vista’s music department through concerts, classroom activities and friendly musical competitions.

“I just hope that we build a deeper musical family here at Monta Vista and just have that connection that I think is really at the heart of what we do with music,” Gilchrist said. “And just, you know, reinforce that and keep it going for years to come.”

About the Contributor
Lindsey Tang, Staff Writer
Lindsey Tang is a senior and staff writer for El Estoque. She enjoys playing violin, basketball, listening to music and going on fun adventures with her friends.
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