Hearing the harmonizing sounds of vocalists and seeing students playing various instruments are some of the activities going on during a normal school day at Girard Academics Music Program (GAMP).
Known for its academic excellence, GAMP allows students in grades five through 12 to pursue music as a major subject. GAMP students engage in a triad of musical fields including choral, instrumental, and theory, making this school one of the top performing magnet schools in the district.
“The music and academic programs are excellent,” says seventh-grader David Hiester. “All of the music programs are very well-rounded and there are so many options that students can chose from. I play the piano, clarinet, bassoon, bass, bass clarinet, and guitar. I use to play the alto saxophone. I’m learning everything about music and performing at a young age. By the time I graduate, I will have excelled academically and gained more experiences than students at other schools.
There are three choirs at GAMP including Middle School Choir, High School Choir, and the Concert Choir (for which students must audition). It is the Concert Choir that does most outside school performances and travels nationally and internationally. The students study a variety of choral repertoires, ranging from Classical, to Jazz, to Pop, to Broadway music.
“I always wanted to do something in music, so GAMP was a natural fit for me” says eighth-grader Camille Porter. “What makes this program so beneficial to me is that everything is hands-on. All of our classes are not too big, so we really get that one-on-one time with our teachers. I think that’s the best way to learn, because we learn things at a much faster pace and have more time to rehearse it.”
Students at GAMP also have music theory three times a week. Students are grouped by grade level and ability. In theory class, students learn the basic building blocks of music, including sight singing and ear training. Sixth-grader Claire Gunawan has only been at GAMP for two years. She said the most challenging class is music theory.
“Music theory is definitely hard,” she said. “It’s very complex and it’s so many different elements to it. I do think the class will help us perfect our skills. In order to become great, you have to know what it takes to be great. Some of the things we learn, great vocalists use when they perform. It’s hard, but I’m embracing the challenge.”
The school includes a music tech lab, science laboratories, high tech Cybrary and open study for collaborative work with peers and teachers. In 2009, GAMP added a full size, regulation gymnasium and cafeteria. The school also has a state of the art theater/auditorium to showcase their music and theatrical productions. GAMP has two shows a year; a talent show in the fall and a theatrical production in the spring.
“The academic standards at GAMP is very high,” says eighth-grader Anthony Grillo. “The teachers here demand a lot from all of us. They want us to be organized and work hard on all of our assignments. The workload at times can be tough, but so is the work in college. I want to be a lawyer, so being organized and working hard are qualities I will need to achieve my dream.”
GAMP has a 98-100 percent college acceptance rate among each senior class and scholarships valued at over one to two million dollars yearly.
For senior Kailah Liggons, going to GAMP helped her realize a new passion for theatre. After graduating, she wants to continue her education and wants to attend Sarah Lawrence College. Her major will be theater.
“Theater was something that I never wanted to do until I came to GAMP,” she said. “The first play I was ever in was Hairspray a few years ago, and I fell in love with performing. In addition to theater, I’m a part of College Bound for Girl and the Orchestra. I also might become the manager for basketball.
“This school has definitely helped me prepare for my future. Because I’ve been a part of so many things while I’ve been here, it won’t be that big of an adjustment when I go to college. With so many students accomplishing their dreams after they leave here, it’s hard not to want the same thing for yourself. This school motivates you. I know that I can succeed and my future is bright.”