It’s a combination that gives students a taste of old school and new school as they find themselves musically. In Gotch’s experience, that came from being in a traditional band. But today, there are different paths to take.
“I want to show them how they can actually play the live instruments and record that into the actual program and use what they played,” Gotch said. “Every day, they get to learn something about it. I was in traditional band. You just sit there you wait, then you play your little part. I give them something, they can go touch it. Each one of them, they don’t have to wait.”
The second graders have tried out the xylophone. The fourth graders have gravitated toward the software side. Same with the sixth graders. Some days, the piano is front and center. Other days, it’s editing and sequencing, understanding djembe drums, or using Boomwhackers, hollow plastic tubes that produce different notes.
Gotch, who started teaching at Willow in March has a degree in music production from Full Sail University, has created beats and produced music for the past 20 years, and also has his own recording studio. With his background, he strives to get kids to understand the technology world of music, from music theory to the software that’s available.
“They’re on phones. They’re on TikTok, they're already into this digital world,” he said. “I get them to explore and understand that they can be doing these things through their phones, through their Chromebooks or laptops at home. They’re excited about it. I have kids actually come to my studio and I still do a little bit of the traditional stuff. On the technology side, they’re really excited about it because they get a little bit more hands-on and create their own music. They’re not just trying to play somebody else’s, they actually complete their own things.”
Teaching was always something Gotch wanted to do. His son and Willow Principal Jennifer Gordon’s son attend the same high school, and after a basketball game, Gotch’s wife learned that the school had an opening for a music teacher. He has enjoyed helping students find potential ways to transform their lives through music.
“I’m just enjoying the process, getting to know the kids and getting further into showing them with music where they could go,” he said. “There's a lot of different areas you can get into with music, that they can have a career. That part I’m really excited about, showing them there's not just musician, there's a lot of different areas.”
Gotch’s mantra is “I’m too old to have a bad day.” In the few bad days his students have had in his short time as a teacher, he has shown them the progress they have made by having a one-on-one conversation.
“I find that they want to be hands-on, they want to talk,” he said. “They want to be able to have a voice in the process, so I let them have their voice and then I interject where I need to and correct from that point instead of just kind of telling them what to do with only being my way. I feel it works better from what I’ve gotten so far.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Gotch!
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Willow Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Lafayette, Louisiana, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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