ACDS Middle School rocks new band program
December 11, 2023
When Middle School music teacher Wes Lanich joined the Aspen Country Day faculty in 2021, he came with a lot of baggage – literally. Before moving to Aspen in 2019 to support audio and streaming projects at the Aspen Music Festival and School, he had spent a decade teaching music at The Field School in Washington, D.C. During his time there, Wes designed an innovative music production and recording engineering curriculum for student musicians. Years of playing and teaching boosted his personal collection of instruments and sound equipment – think recording gear, mics, preamps, compressors, a Hammond organ, plus a few guitars.
The assortment of ACDS musical instruments has also grown under Wes’ tenure. For the 2023-24 school year, the Middle School music department added to its collection three electric guitars, a bass, drum kit, piano, organ, tambourines, and a PA system to accommodate multiple vocalists. Wes isn’t gunning to transform ACDS students into Grammy winners but rather instill a sense of excitement and interest in music at a point in their school journey when more standard programs may become less interesting to Middle Schoolers.
“The ACDS Middle School music program neatly complements Ms. Kim’s Lower School music curriculum,” Wes said. “She gives students a great footing in a more traditional environment and then they come to Middle School, break loose, and try something else.”
“TEACHING STUDENTS TO COMMUNICATE CREATIVELY THROUGH MUSIC GIVES THEM A FOUNDATION FOR EXPRESSION WITHOUT ANY RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS”
The rock band sessions focus on ensemble performances as well as getting kids to step outside of their comfort zone. Every kid plays every instrument — regardless of their background knowledge, or lack thereof.
“Drums are a surprising source of anxiety for kids who have never played,” Wes said. “They realize it’s harder than just banging on loud things. Insecurity also comes up with vocals – no one ever sings by themself.”
“You learn and grow a lot from learning and playing the instruments,” said Sixth Grader Molly M.
Prior to this year, ACDS Middle School music classes focused on the basics of music production and recording. Those elements are still included, but part of the focus has shifted to music as a way of building community.
“THE MUSIC ROOM GIVES KIDS A SPACE TO CONNECT SOCIALLY IN A WAY OTHER THAN SPORTS”
“I like that we get to play cool instruments like the Gibson SG and choose the songs,” said Seventh Grader Zeke S. “Wes and I like the same style of music, like the Beatles.”
Wes leans in to teaching students to communicate creatively through music by giving them a foundation for expression without any right or wrong answers.
“For certain kids, there’s a social element to playing music. We have some kids who come every day to rock out at lunch because for them it’s a safe space to create,” Wes said. “The music room gives kids a space to connect socially in a way other than sports.”