Program Director, Youth Wind Ensemble
For Claire Nalven, director of RSC’s Youth Wind Ensemble, music education provides students with a lot more than the skills to play an instrument. She explains, “In an ensemble, they learn how to work hard and be part of a team. They are with kids they haven’t met before from all over the region, and they grow together as musicians. Whether they become professional musicians or not, those skills will help them in life – and having music in life is healthy.”
Joining the RSC during the pandemic, Claire is excited to grow the Youth Wind Ensemble. “RSC students are highly motivated, and it is a pleasure to teach students committed to an ensemble. One thing that is especially unique about RSC’s Youth Wind Ensemble is that students play by ability level rather than grade level. So, younger students have an opportunity to play at higher levels and access more challenging pieces,” she says. “Some of our students are only in 8th grade, but they play at the senior district level or above. Our goal is to be a premier ensemble of 8th through 12th grade students who play year-round.”
Claire’s approach to teaching begins with creating a “safe environment” for students to learn. She says, “Learning to play an instrument is very challenging, and takes a lot of time. It is often nearly impossible for students to play every piece of music correctly the first time they see it; mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. When students perform something incorrectly, I encourage them to view the mistakes as opportunities for improvement. This motivates students to improve and creates a more positive environment in the classroom.”
She notes that playing wind instruments during the pandemic was difficult because of social distancing and mask requirements. However, special masks allow students to rehearse again, and the ensemble is gearing up for its first indoor performance since the pandemic. The “Around the World” theme of the January concert will feature pieces from places like Albania, Germany, and New Orleans. “The idea is that music brings us together,” says Claire.
When she is not at RSC, Claire works as a music teacher in the Weston Public Schools, where she directs ensembles, including the High School Concert Band, the 6th, 7th and 8th grade bands, three jazz bands grades 6-12, and the After School Pop Music Group. She also teaches AP Music Theory and Chamber Music and coaches the Middle School cross country team.
In addition to teaching and directing, Claire plays the clarinet. “I started out playing the piano, but I joined my school’s band in 4th grade and began the clarinet. Throughout high school, I became more serious and joined youth orchestras and wind ensembles,” says Claire, who majored in clarinet performance at Northwestern University and earned a Master of Music in chamber music and clarinet performance from the University of Michigan.
She began her music education career teaching middle and high school students in Minnesota before moving back to her home state of Massachusetts in 2020.
As the world opens, Claire is looking forward to performing with regional orchestras. “My passion is teaching, but I am excited to perform again,” she says.