“The secret to student engagement was connecting works to their creator’s story and purpose. Learning this informed everything I’ve done as a teacher and Doctor Noize, whose albums are character-based musicals challenging kids with sophisticated fare. Students of any age will explore challenging musical puzzles when we remember: We’re all moved by people, story and purpose.”
— Cory Cullinan, on what he learned at Pinewood School
As Pinewood’s ACT Department Head and Music Teacher, Cory was in charge of overseeing the entire curriculum and how the pieces fit together. It’s not unlike producing an album or show. Collaborating with the teachers in his stewardship was as rewarding as working with the students. Teachers are the best people in the world.
One of the teachers in Cory’s Department went on to become the CEO of Grammaropolis. Others are now revered educators who’ve given decades to an institution. A highlight was a required interdisciplinary freshman Humanities course introducing students to the arts, co-taught by Cory (Music), the Visual Arts teacher and the Drama teacher.
Cory’s summaries of Pinewood Curriculums he developed and taught:
Western Music History: Too Many Notes
This course informed everything I did that followed. Here’s why: I studied classical music history in college and became convinced it’s marketed incorrectly today as a bunch of old music for rich snobs rather than as wild masterpieces by the crazy rock stars of their era. I asked Pinewood to add this elective to the schedule. They said no one would sign up. Within two years, the course was so popular students couldn’t get in. It was made a Freshman requirement. Parents wrote: “You inspired my son to go to the San Francisco Symphony!” It was a real joy validating my belief that kids — even non-musicians — could go wild over fine art music, or really anything sophisticated. We just had to believe in them and present it in a way that honored the humanity and thrill of the composers who wrote it.
Humanities: Introduction To Western Music History
This third of a required interdisciplinary Humanities course (co-taught with the Art & Drama teachers) was created after the Music History elective became too popular and we made it a requirement. Western Music History subsequently became a follow-up elective to go deeper.
Students Writing And Recording Music (SWARM)
My first Recording Arts course. Developed before I knew there was such a thing as a college Recording Arts major! Taught both songwriting and Pro Tools production. Built the school studio.
Advanced SWARM: Advanced Composition & Recording
Advanced composing and producing of original music in the Pinewood Studio. SWARM was a prerequisite. Music business was added to this course, which consisted of Pinewood’s most serious budding recording artists.
Pinewood Singers: Mixed Choir
Launched the Pinewood vocal music program which thrives to this day. Went from a ragtag group who could hardly hold pitch the first year to the winners of Disneyland’s Best Overall Choir with the only perfect score of the competition just three years later, competing against schools ten times Pinewood’s size from multiple states. Won a big trophy still up at the school. “I only have great things to say. As you know, you were the one who started our choir program and it all started from your early days.” — Scott Riches, Pinewood School President, 15 years later
The Divas: Girls Choir
Intro ensemble for girls who were not quite ready for the select Pinewood Singers. Focused on fun and entertaining popular music instead of the advanced repertoire of the Pinewood Singers.
Music Fundamentals: Why Music Rocks
Interactive music theory and fundamentals course taught with traditional and software methods.
I taught Middle School English one semester at Pinewood when they were suddenly short a teacher. They asked if anyone would do it, and I said yes. My Mom was an English teacher and I love words. It was fun.