Rita Zhang violin

We are very excited to announce another fantastic Subject Expert Teacher to our team at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Lower School! Ms. Rita Zhang will be joining our teaching faculty for the 2022-2023 school year as a Music Subject Expert Teacher.

Ms. Zhang has 25 years of musical experience in and out of the classroom. She is a composer, choreographer, performer, and passionate teacher of all things music. 

Our Head of School, Ms. Brooklynn Titus, spoke with Ms. Zhang and is excited to help all our new families get to know her!

Congratulations, on being a founding faculty member at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley Lower School! What are you most looking forward to in this new position?

I am super excited to become a founding faculty member at BISV! I can't wait to start my new journey at the lower school. I am looking forward to embracing the challenges and possibilities of this new campus and I hope to use my musical skills as well as my teaching skills to bring even more innovations to the BASIS Curriculum and more fun to the music lessons there.


Tell us a little bit about your background and why you became a music teacher?

I was born in Nanjing, China. Both of my parents are doctors and classical music lovers. I started playing piano at age of four, then began violin and vocals at 10. I started systematic learning in the Conservatory when I was 15 years old. I have a Master of Music in Music Composition and Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I have more than 10 years of teaching experience in this field. As an award-winning professional musician, I have also received commissions for music composition in China and the United States, and have my music performed worldwide including at J.F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Music is a life-changing subject and plays a unique role in the heart, mind, soul, and spirit of students; stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways. I love teaching music because I enjoy sharing my passion with others and helping more people learn it. I believe everyone can benefit from music for a lifetime. 


Music has so many dimensions to it. What are some of the ways you find music helpful in developing a student?

Music entertainment and performance including signing and playing can be a healthy outlet for the students to release their thoughts and emotions. I believe music study cultivates the students' temperament and the sentiment. By listening to different styles of music, they learn different emotions and how to manage them well. Learning music inspires us to ponder who we are, and who we want to be, as a mirror of self-reflection. Undoubtedly, the music we love has a profound influence on how we see ourselves. On the other hand, when practicing a show and rehearsal together, they learn how to coordinate and cooperate. Students not only have fun by playing and singing, but also develop critical skills physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially in it. Other than that, in my music class, I always combine music with other subjects to encourage students' independent thinking. I love combining math in music theory and history in music history!


You have experience in teaching students from Preschool all the way to Middle School. How do you work to engage students in music across these different levels?

Music lessons can be very different from grade to grade. I use different approaches to improve class engagement at different ages. In general, as a teacher, it's fundamental to guide the student to discover their own interests and passion based on their level. I always ask them what they like and listen to what my students are learning in order to know more about them. I will incorporate their interests and strong points into the curriculum appropriately. I believe a positive attitude and fascinating lessons are the best things to promote engagement! In my class, I always create a fun learning environment to encourage the students to explore. One thing I find is that no matter how old they are, students all love musical games and movement!


As teachers, we always have things that we really love to teach our students. Can you tell us about a favorite lesson or unit that you've enjoyed doing with your students in the past?

Yes! My favorite unit is always the great composers! When listening to nice music, my students always ask me, "Who wrote this music?" or "Where does this piece of music come from?" I am excited to introduce different great composers and different music genres to them. Gradually they can find their own tastes and cultivate their own aesthetics. From the baroque period to classical, to romantic, to the 20th and 21st century, the music can be so different and there is always one they will like. I've also enjoyed teaching film composers as the students like to see their familiar films from the musical perspective and learn how the music serves the drama and creates the atmosphere. 


I am a composer myself so I also teach my students how to write their own songs!


Music history and appreciation are also important elements of your classes. How do you get students to understand and appreciate music?

Music history and appreciation typically include content such as composers, instrumentation, and the different styles from that era. When listening to pieces of music, I always encourage them to describe what the piece made them think about by telling how they could smell, taste, see, hear, and feel in their mind. The music from different periods can be so different with its unique characters. To get students thinking about music, I always have them compare and contract songs by analyzing the features. Sometimes we play the game "Guess that song!" by playing a piece of anonymous music and identifying the composer. 


I love to add some fun facts when teaching younger musicians such as asking, "Do you know how old Mr. Mozart was when he wrote his first song? Do you know Mr. Bach's music was sent to space?" For older students, I combine music with the historical background at that time. I teach them what this music was written for and how the composers made a contribution to their culture and civilization during that period. Music is a mirror reflection of not only our identity but also culture and history. In this way, I hope they can better understand different composers and music genres. 


Student performances are always exciting to witness! How do you prepare your students to perform in front of a crowd?

I always discuss with the students what theme they want to do first. Some classes like Disney, some like "Palace" themes, and others like the "Opera" theme. From there we choose the repertoire based on the theme to make the performance in various forms. I am always surprised by their creative ideas! We work together and practice for a few weeks and have a few rehearsals before the final show. It is not always easy as they go through the whole process, but they will experience teamwork, and coordination, and learn to solve problems together. Most importantly, I hope they enjoy the process of performing and learn the power of unity so that no matter what the final result will be, the process will be the most meaningful to them. Everyone is unique when playing an important role in the show. The music performance is always the proudest moment for the students, and the teacher too! 


You also have experience in choreography. How do dance and movement make their way into your classroom?

Young children are born dancers! I love to incorporate music and dance to enrich my lessons. Different styles of music create types of beats, which all correspond to a specific dance style. The rhythm, or pattern of beats in the music, can influence the speed and phrasing of the dancing movement. I always guide the student to try different movements based on the different music. By creating the movements based on the musical expression, the students can depend on their own understanding of the music from a different angle. By the way, body percussion is one of their favorite activities! 


How can parents encourage music appreciation at home?

For parents, making their home a music-rich environment can be a wonderful experience for their children. Music inspires and listening to music and playing music together can be a very fun activity for the family to do. If parents know any instruments, they can play them and teach their child to play also. Singing and creating music together is very bonding.
In my house, I always play beautiful classical music at dinner time and a peaceful lullaby before bedtime. I think it is a good time to share music with my family and helps set the mood. 

Every month in class we will discuss different musical topics based on the diverse festivals around the world. Diwali, Chinese Lunar New Year, and Christmas all have beautiful music that can be learned in the classroom and appreciated at home. I hope students share what they learn at home and families appreciate music together.  


Finally, what is your goal for each of your students?

A good teacher should teach students in accordance with their aptitude, encourage them, and guide them to reach beyond themselves and explore their potential. To me, music education must make a positive impact not just on musicianship and musical proficiency, but on the person. Music lessons are not only for fun or entertainment but also an important way that inspires students to deepen their thoughts and cultivate their sentiments and temperament, to feel the world in a sensitive way. I hope learning music can help students blossom into well-rounded individuals.



If you have any questions, please reach out to the Admissions Team at (408) 291-0907 or email us at sv.admissions@basisindependent.com.

BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a TK - Grade 12 private school, providing students an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum, with advanced STEM offerings. Considering joining the Bobcat communityJoin our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for fall 2022 and more.