Music to Our Ears… Students learn Music Theory at MHS


Music offers a certain appreciation for life that cannot be compared to many other joys. Singing along to our favorite songs by artists we love is something that we do every day, but do we ever think about what makes music so enjoyable? There are endless genres and styles, however there is a common language of all music: music theory. It is what makes music as powerful as it is, giving composers the ability to portray their exact emotions through song. Massapequa High School offers courses in music theory to encourage aspiring musicians to understand how their artform works.

Mrs. Ilena Dempsey, the director of the 10th grade girls’ Treble Choir, teaches Music Theory I, a one credit elective course offered at the Massapequa High School Main Campus and Ames Campus. This class delves into the principles of note reading, rhythm identification, notational and composition skills, analysis of music scores, and vocabulary/terminology. Serving as a prerequisite to Advanced Placement Music Theory, students are given a foundation that they can build off of to further their careers as young musicians. 

Emmie McBride, an 11th grade student who currently takes Music Theory I states that “Mrs. Dempsey and the information I have learned thus far in this course has helped me grow a greater understanding of music than what I have ever experienced. I’m planning for a career as a music educator and her guidance has made me feel very prepared for this path. Mrs. Dempsey makes the environment nurturing and fun while also being very productive in her teaching, which makes me eager to continue furthering my education in theory and music as a whole.”

Mrs. Marjorie Spagunolo, conductor of Massapequa High School’s Symphony Orchestra, teaches AP Music Theory at MHS’s Main Campus, a college-level class focusing on advanced teachings to that of Theory I, along with the introduction of new ideas such as aural skills and orchestration techniques. Students are prepared for the AP exam, to be taken at the conclusion of the course. 

Mrs. Spagnuolo shares a great enthusiasm for teaching this class, creating an environment where students can feel comfortable to share their work and learn through making mistakes together. She expresses how her favorite part of teaching this class is “watching fantastic musicians learn how to create their own music on a higher level.”

She explains how a higher caliber of musicianship is shown in the students who take Advanced Placement Music theory. “In my experience, those who opt to take AP Music Theory are the highest level musicians in the school, because while they’re already invested in playing other peoples’ music, their interests grow in the analysis and composition aspects,” Spagnuolo comments.

 The collaborative efforts of Mrs. Dempsey and Mrs. Spagnuolo to teach the science-side of sound makes Massapequa High School an incredible learning environment for those interested in pursuing music, giving endless resources and opportunities to grow and expand their horizons. 

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