Music Program Develops Young Talent

November 05, 2015 | Stacy Tejel

A school without music is like the sun without warmth; it’s nice enough, but you are always left wanting more.

That’s how Trent Russell felt during his sophomore year of high school when his favorite music teacher moved on to a new job. It was then that the notion that he could teach, that he could make a difference in Adventist education, began to grow in his mind.

Russell never gave up that notion and went on to graduate from Union College with a Bachelor of Science in music education. Soon after, he found himself in a full-time teaching position at Auburn Adventist Academy where he has been teaching, mentoring and coaching young musicians for eight years now.

Making Amazing Music

Russell has stuck true to his original ideas about music and Christian education, and most days you will find him in the band room where he leads the academy’s orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz band and saxophone quartet.

When you hear Russell talking about his program, you can’t help but get pulled in. “The music is great, but it’s always the kids that bring me here,” he says. “It’s an amazing experience to be able take a diverse group of young people from different backgrounds and proficiency levels and coach them up into a cohesive group that works together to make some amazing music.”

There is something special that music does to a person’s soul and resonates with them like no other medium. Being able to work with young people in a different type of setting than the regular classroom gives Russell the ability to connect with them on a different level.

“It is an amazing experience to know that God is working through you to be of service to these young people,” Russell says. “Sometimes you may think that they aren’t listening or haven’t clued in to the message you are trying to get across to them, and then you’ll hear about how they shared Christ with someone else or how they viewed music class as what got them through a difficult patch in their high school experience, and you just praise God for the opportunity to be here with them.”

Integrating Music and Technology

As Auburn Adventist Academy gets its 2015–2016 school year going, the new administration and staff are looking to build a spiritual and academic program like no other, seeking God as they strive for excellence.

One of the innovations in the music department is the addition of a class in audio engineering. This class, taught by Russell, is perfect for students wanting to combine their love of music and technology.

After completing this course, students are able to run a live sound system, create electronic music of their own or manipulate someone else’s music. The final project brings all these skills together as students record their own praise song.

Teaching Music Technique

Russell recently completed a master’s degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago.

During the program, Russell was given instruction in the areas of working with different ensembles, as well as orchestra and jazz band technique. He even had a class on every instrument and learned how to teach such technical things as proper embouchure formation.

With this depth of knowledge Russell is able to notice and correct musical problems quicker and easier, his music teaching techniques have been honed, and he is able to offer much more to his students.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten my master’s at VanderCook,” Russell says. “I know that because of it I am more equipped to help my students take their musical abilities to a much higher level than ever before.”

After 14 months of work on his master’s program, Russell has been looking forward to the start of a new school year and the chance to bring his broadened knowledge base to the music department at Auburn Adventist Academy.

Developing Talent

Dylan Turner is one of Russell’s students who is contributing to the music program. Turner is a four-year senior and began band in grade school at neighboring Buena Vista Elementary School, where Russell also teaches music.

Always willing to play, on time, dedicated, never backs down from a challenge, the more difficult the better — these are just some of the statements Russell uses while discussing Turner’s talent. “His dedication to music and to this department has been inspiring,” Russell says.

Turner plays in every ensemble: he plays saxophone in wind ensemble and jazz band, plays in the saxophone quartet and plays the cello in orchestra — “He is phenomenal at both,” says Russell enthusiastically. Russell, as a music coach, is able to build rapport with Turner and help him further refine his music abilities.

As Russell works at developing young musical talent, he says, “I ask my students to give their absolute best because in the end, no matter what we are doing, it isn’t about them or me; it’s about the talents God has given us and how we use them for His glory.”