Teaching at Pinewood

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The Pinewood Singers and Director Cory Cullinan

Notes from Cory on his high school teaching career…

I was given the opportunity to create and teach an innovative music program from the ground up at Pinewood School in Los Altos Hills, California, and I loved it… except, of course, all the damn kids.

In five years, Pinewood evolved from a school with no music courses to one with a mandatory freshman music history course, an award-winning choir, a recording studio that released eight full-length student CD’s, and an ambitious musical theater program. I chaired the new Arts, Communication & Technology Department and coached the Varsity Boys Soccer team to its first winning record in years. I take great pride in the accomplishments of my students, and feel privileged to have been a part of their lives. To this day as I keep up with their developments. Here are notes on a few programs we built together, for students to reminisce and others to learn about what we did…

Pinewood Singers

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The photos above are of from my final concert as Director of the Pinewood Singers on a beautiful May evening in Silicon Valley.

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Into the Woods with the Pinewood Singers

For this Director and several seniors, it closed four years of hard work and play. For others, it represented one very memorable year that included our fully staged production of Sondheim‘s “Into The Woods” to standing-room-only audiences on multiple nights; our performance of Haydn‘s “Te Deum” with the Menlo orchestra and choir; our national anthem performances at basketball state championship playoffs; our master classes and performances at various venues; and our Best Overall Choir award at Disneyland‘s Music In The Parks festival, where we received the only perfect score from the judges and outperformed quality choirs from schools ten times Pinewood‘s size.

Here’s the beautiful final song, of the beautiful final performance, I conducted as Director of the Pinewood Singers — “Dirait-on” by Morten Lauridsen…

SWARM

Each semester for five loud years, SWARM (“Students Writing And Recording Music”) students wrote and recorded their own CD’s in our studio at Pinewood, which were then manufactured and sold to the student body. Students learned to compose and record their own music in Pro Tools (the industry standard music production platform), and performed and promoted the music at a concert at the end of each semester.

Here’s one student on the impact of the SWARM program on his life, and below are some highlights from every SWARM album recorded at Pinewood. Each of these songs was produced and recorded by the students, and most were written by the students too. I get a big smile on my face every time I listen to them — and I do go back and listen to them on occasion, to remind myself of my time with these amazing kids — and I hope you enjoy them too.

— Cory Cullinan