Writing and Arranging: Not your typical music class

Open your spotify app and scan the code to listen to Zakharenko’s music

Photo Ben Zakharenko

Open your spotify app and scan the code to listen to Zakharenko’s music

The Writing and Arranging classes (I and II) at WHS give students the opportunity to learn music theory and compose their own music. This course differs from other music classes since it focuses on the fundamentals behind writing music. The purpose of the class is to give students a different kind of musical outlet. Craig Stanton, the course instructor, said “It is a niche class, but there’s a wide variety of types of students that take the class with all different intentions and skill levels.”

About 15-20 students take the class every year, so the small class environment allows for a more personalized curriculum. “Everyone will have a place in this class and be engaged,” said Stanton.

WHS senior Ben Zakharenko, who took both classes, first started writing music around 4th grade and got into producing music in 5th grade as well. “The class teaches you a bit of everything: all the basics and more about music theory, training your ears to make you a better musician, music history, among a couple of other things,” Zakharenko said.

These classes gave Zakharenko the chance to explore and experiment with his music, something that he was previously unable to find time for. Even though Zakharenko wrote a lot of music before taking this class, he said, “I learned a lot about music history, which is quite fascinating, and how to write more classical music, since I usually write in more popular music styles.”

WHS senior Robbie Strauss, who took both courses, was also interested in writing music from a young age. “I convinced my parents to buy me cheap music notation software, and off I went. I would mess around, creating interesting sequences of notes and rhythms,” Strauss said.

Even though Strauss and Zakharenko experimented with music writing and producing in the past, they say that there are still things to learn in Writing and Arranging I and II even if you know the traditional notation system.

Zakharenko said, “I already knew most of the basic theory we went over my first year, but what I did learn really helped me feel a lot more comfortable and in control when writing music.”

Strauss enjoys the class because students can explore their own way of doing things and are able to compose music in their own styles. “The class does not produce many mini Mr. Stantons; rather, it produces many new composers who have their own respective styles,” Strauss said.

Upon completion of the Writing and Arranging curriculum, students have the skills to arrange their own music. Strauss arranged music for chamber ensembles and a stands tune for marching band.

Zakharenko has also been successful in writing and arranging music apart from school. Among thousands of applicants, Zakharenko was one of thirteen students selected to participate as a producer in a nation-wide program in Los Angeles called Grammy Camp. The program ran by the Grammy foundation “focuses on teaching talented high school students more about the music industry and how to further advance their craft,” Zakharenko said.

Zakharenko has also been releasing music under the name Ben House for the last couple of years. His songs are mostly in the EDM and Pop genres with elements of big band jazz, funk and other styles.