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  • Writer's pictureSean Woodyard

New Modern Band class brings harmony to Kennedy

There is a new music class on campus, Modern Band, led by Bryan Stroh and Dennis Plotts that meets in room M-2. Stroh and Plotts teach music in a positive way according to a student survey, and the thing that’s helping students learn positively is the growth mindset. A growth mindset set promotes the idea that students can learn by trial and error and that challenge is a part of learning.

Kennedy Teachers Dennis Plotts and Bryan Stroh smiling for their students in M-2. Modern Band Class is a new elective for the 2023-2024 year.

Stroh spoke about his past history with teaching music and what he hopes for in this first year of Kennedy's Modern Band class.

The Clarion: When and where did you begin teaching music?

Stroh: I started teaching music in the fall of 2006 with a before-school band program at O.W. Erlewine Elementary School. I have taught at Sutter (Miwok), Folsom High School, and Sac State. This is my ninth year at JFK, and I love being a cougar.

Why did you choose to teach students using a growth mindset?

After my second year at JFK, I saw that our students were stressed about entering into the adult world after graduation. While I can't teach everyone the important skills needed to thrive in adulthood, I could help students develop their mindset to feel empowered to take on their challenges.

What do you hope for with teaching this year?

I hope that our community can continue to grow and thrive through music making.

How do you feel about modern band being a new class at John F Kennedy High School?

I am excited to offer a modern band at JFK! Any class that helps students to express themselves is an asset to our students. I am also super excited to work with Mr. Plotts. He and I make a terrific team and are working to make a rockin’ class for students.

Kennedy seniors (l-r) Carly Yoshioka and Hayden Bansch getting ready to play acoustic guitars during Modern Band class, a new elective this year.

Students were asked what they thought of the growth mindset and how it affected their learning in the classroom.

“I love talking about the growth mindset because it helps us beginners keep hope that we can do what we set our minds on, whether that’s learning music or improving in a different way,” said Katherine Caballero, a senior in the class.

“Actually it’s good that they are teaching a growth mindset, because I myself do tend to have a fixed mindset and it's a bad thing," said senior Leh Maeh Vieh.

"When they were teaching a growth mindset, it actually made me reflect on myself and how I am as a person when it comes to challenging tasks, and how I can overcome them.”

Students also commented about teachers Mr. Stroh and Mr. Plotts.

“They are really funny and teach in a good way where it's entertaining and not boring,” said junior Lucy Thao. “They are really good as they really try to get to know us and check up on us.”

“Mr. Stroh and Mr. Plotts are wonderful teachers who make this class fun,” said junior Amelia Vue. “This class is by far my favorite, and I'm able to relax from school work in this class.”

In short, students feel Mr. Stroh’s and Mr. Plotts’ modern band class is a good opportunity for students to branch out and expand their love and understanding for music.

“I think they are great teachers -- they actually interact with the students, and are always there for us when we need help,” said Nafeesa Sofizada, a junior at Kennedy.

“I like how they encourage us to have a growth mindset as well.”

Kennedy teacher Dennis Plotts instructing students how to tune their guitars during Modern Band class, a new elective this year.

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