On a Wednesday night in late September, the Garth Commons was transformed into something other than a school lunchroom. It was a cross between a lecture hall and an Irish pub, only instead of Guinness on tap it was root beer.
Randolph hosted Mad About Trad: An Inside Look at Irish Traditional Music with percussionist Andy Kruspe and the band SlipJig. We had hoped to draw a broad audience from the School and the local community. Public radio station WLRH let us do a public service announcement, a notice ran in The Huntsville Times and the Art Department put up flyers around town.
Our efforts paid off. The audience was a mix of Randolph students from all grades, parents, parents of alumni, faculty and staff, students of percussion instructor and featured speaker Andy Kruspe and fans of SlipJig, all there to learn about and enjoy traditional Irish music.
"Everyone in the family wanted to attend Mad about Trad," said Randolph parent Elizabeth Newton, "the 11th grader who knows the percussion instructor and enjoys history; the middle schooler who's into music; we grown-ups who have frequented Irish pubs; and our youngest son who loves novelty and thought it would make a perfect birthday celebration with his best friend from another school. Mad about Trad epitomizes the 'Randolph experience'—creating opportunities for the community to share, while broadening our family's appreciation of the world, its music, and community talent. Such family-pleasing events may some day be the spark of the children's inspiration!"
"Music can benefit our students in so many ways," says Mr. Kruspe. "While many parents think that means only school band and choir, hopefully this presentation and its related resources have shown that there are many opportunities for musical enrichment beyond the campus." In addition to exploring the specifics of this genre, Mr. Kruspe also talked about why it is important to expose our children to other cultures and forms of music.
Mr. Kruspe, who teaches at Randolph as well as Grissom, Whitesburg Middle School and around Huntsville, believes that an event like Mad About Trad can build connections across our community. He added that while this was a lighthearted and fun presentation, he had heard from several people that they learned quite a bit from it. It was as if they "were in class, but didn't know it."
The youngest members of the audience were sitting with our Lower School music specialist, Lea Hoppe, who thought it was a great event and was very glad to see several of our 4th graders students and their families there. “I had done a Celtic dance with the 4th graders and they loved it! I encouraged them to attend the event to experience more Celtic/Irish music. Mike’s talk about jigs and reels fit right in with our classroom experience.”
Randolph parent Celeste Childs said her family had gone largely at the urging of her daughter, Abbie, a 7th grader who loves science, runs cross-country and plays percussion in the band. "I have been to lots of PARENTS+ events that are more informational or specific to my child’s learning or wellbeing, but this was a much more family-friendly, educational and entertaining event."
"Honestly," Mrs. Childs said, "I was not expecting it to be as fabulous as it was! I was reminded once again of how fortunate we are to have so many talented people working with our children each and every day at Randolph! Andy Kruspe did an amazing job of blending educational facts with entertainment. Abbie was even more fired up about percussion and wants to take Mr. Kruspe's workshop trip to Ireland. My 1st grader, Megan, was clapping and tapping her feet to the beat the entire time and can't wait to play in the band when she is old enough! We learned a lot and had fun. Having done it, we are more likely to go to such an event in the future. We were a community of learners together!"
As the School works to implement the Strategic Plan, an event like this illustrates what we are able to offer. Central to the theme of Goal 2, Enhance Our Integration into the Wider Community, is the conclusion to Randolph's Mission Statement: “...above all, the School emphasizes honor, integrity, and character so that all in partnership with Randolph are elevated and inspired to enrich their families, communities, the nation, and the world.” The three main constituents in this goal are parents, alumni and the Huntsville community.
PARENTS+ events are an important part of strengthening the partnership between parents and the School for the benefit of every student. A joint effort of the Randolph Parent Association and School administration, PARENTS+ provides parents the opportunity to gain insight into their students’ world. With subjects in the areas of social and emotional development, wellness, developmental readiness, independent school experiences, and 21st century learning, PARENTS+ program topics are designed to strengthen the partnership between parents and the School for the benefit of each Randolph student.
Current PARENTS+ events, as well as a great list of recommended resources, may be found here. Other Fall 2011 PARENTS+ events have included “The Importance of Interscholastic Athletics: Preparation for College and Life” with Jeff Moore, Former Head Women’s Tennis Coach, University of Texas; “Off on the Right Foot: Ensuring a Healthy Start to a New School Year,” and “A New Kind of Citizen: Preparing Students in an Evolving Digital Culture.”
In 2012, PARENTS+ will offer events about how "Boys and Girls Learn Differently," "Lessons from The Memory Project," "A Culture of Integrity," "Nutrition in Adolescence," and "Transitioning to College."
"This is a great resource to the School," said Mrs. Childs, "make a hole in your schedule for it!"