The Music of Parent Engagement

Pearce Director of Orchestras Melissa Livings teaches a master class every Monday night to a group of parents of secondary students in the Pearce learning community.

These parents have never played an instrument before. Livings, who began her career as Head Director of the Pearce Orchestra in 2000, implores them to “find your best posture” and “be OK with looking silly”

Livings has about 10 student volunteers helping parents tune their instruments, properly hold a bow, and find the right fret to place their fingers.

Kathyrn Grigsby jumped at the chance to join the parent orchestra because she wanted a way to be involved with her daughter, Sarah, who is a junior at Pearce and plays harp.

“I wanted to experience some of what she does and how she feels while playing music in her orchestra,” Kathryn said.  “It’s a wonderful experience to be new – and bad – at something as an adult. It makes me understand my daughter’s experience as she learns and grows in her love and experience with music.”

She also expressed gratitude for Livings, her fellow teachers, and the student volunteers.

“I know it isn’t at all easy to try to teach parents how to play instruments,” Grigsby said. “I love the challenge and the community spirit of the parent orchestra. It is fun and thrilling to even practice together. The best part is that my daughter is right there beside me to instruct and encourage me. I love and appreciate every single moment.”

Pearce Principal Carrie Breedlove said Livings rises to the level of distinguished teacher, evidenced by the superlative performance of the PHS Orchestra.

“Every class day is thoroughly planned, intelligently paced, and rigorously presented. The students are actively engaged in the lesson and work hard to meet the high expectations that Ms. Livings has established and that they, the students, fully expect to achieve,” Breedlove said.

Principal Breedlove also said Livings has built an AP Music Theory program that has produced mean scores of three or higher five years running, and as Orchestra Director, she communicates with parents, organizes travel, manages students, oversees wardrobe, interacts with feeder schools, and presents musical programs that are consistently excellent.

“Walk in the class and watch the students singing through parts of the lesson and you will see students learning and understanding music theory,” Breedlove said. “Ms. Livings is certainly in it for the students. We’re lucky to have her at Pearce.”