The Music Man

With the support of a school district committed to music education, Chris Lee uses technology to teach students traditional lessons about music theory and composition.

Lee has just completed his third year using a 15-station computer lab to teach five elective courses at Newtown High School in Connecticut. His position in the school is unique because as one of four music teachers, he is free to dedicate himself solely to theory and composition.

When Lee, fresh out of Yale with a master’s degree in music, applied for this position, he knew he wanted to teach in a public school but didn’t want to run a band. “Often, music teachers spread themselves thin by doing both band and theory,” Lee said.

Lee’s courses attract both traditional music students and those he refers to as “garage-banders.”

“These students may not have a traditional musical background playing in the school band, but they play guitar or drums in a band outside of school and wish to pursue a better understanding of music theory,” Lee explained.

The diverse musical background of non-performers and traditional students in the same classroom creates a unique and valuable learning environment for students, Lee said. A student who has played piano for ten years, for example, may be able to help another student in the class who can’t read music. The student who can’t read music may be able to offer the piano player a different perspective on a concept.

Not only does Lee teach the next generation of composers, he is himself a composer who recently created a hymn for the anniversary of a Lutheran Church in New Haven to which he belongs.

“When you’re a composer, composing is something that you always have to do,” said Lee, who is the son of URI Music Department Chair Ron Lee. “I always love to do it, but the interaction teaching provides is special, too. I love doing both.”

—James Acone ’08