Meet Aaron Shows: Composer and Canterbury Chapel Organist

“The point of the song is not to get to the last chord. The point of the song is to enjoy the music itself as it is happening.” This is Aaron Shows’ — Canterbury’s new chapel organist — advice about music and life. Aaron believes that music can offer numerous metaphors and meaning for life. This message of presence is an important lesson for all of us, young and old.  


Aaron Shows, Chapel Organist

Born in Montgomery, AL, Aaron started piano lessons at age 5 and was fortunate enough to have a teacher who fostered his love for music. He credits this teacher for his music career. 

Aaron began organ lessons as a high school student and went on to study organ at Duquesne University and Shenandoah University. He graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in church music from Shenandoah University in 2011 and in 2013 earned master of fine arts degree in film music composition from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has vast experience playing a variety of instruments, but his favorite to play — and compose on — are the piano and organ.

What is the difference between church music and the music in your favorite movie?

They are more similar than you might think, if you ask Aaron. “Both are intended to bring the listener into the moment and guide them in ways that words can’t always do alone. Both clergy and film directors collaborate with musicians to provide appropriate music for the church service or movie.”

That is just what he does. Aaron says he enjoys working with Father Finnin because he is good humored, a good leader, and good with children. Together, they create chapel services that are a core component of our children’s Canterbury experience.

Aaron notes that he doesn’t often get to play for 400 children — as an organist he has played mostly for adults. The experience of playing and the sound itself is completely different with children’s voices.

Another new experience for Aaron is playing on the Canterbury organ. “It is very different from any that I’ve played locally, acoustically it’s much like the organs I’ve played in Germany or France.”

Aaron also works as an accompanist at Greensboro Day School and as the organist at West Market Street United Methodist Church in Greensboro. Currently, he is pursuing publishing opportunities for some of his music compositions. He is thrilled to join the Canterbury community and is looking forward to the remainder of the liturgical year.

by Emily Wilson Brenner

Version 2Emily Wilson Brenner is parent to Benjamin (PreK-Copeland/Kaplan) and Fritz, wife to Kevin, a dance artist, and an instructor in Canterbury’s PreK Afternoon Adventures. Her favorite thing about Canterbury is the beautifully inspiring outdoor space. She likes yoga, dark chocolate, and a good cup of green tea. 


Canterbury Middle School: Meeting Students Where They Are

My 4th grade student was pretty excited to be invited to lunch with Head of School Burns Jones and Middle School Director David Skeen. She didn’t realize that it was more than a lunch; it was her first orientation to middle school. Over the past few weeks, students have attended these lunch sessions in small groups, in which they were invited to ask questions, hear more about middle school, and get to know their new division director.

During the winter and spring trimester, 4th grade students and parents are gaining an introduction to middle school, which at Canterbury begins with 5th grade. Recently, David Skeen, middle school faculty members, and the Admission Office hosted an evening Meet the Middle School session for 4th grade parents.

Several administrators and teachers share interesting in and out of classroom learning experiences on their Twitter feeds. Follow along!

Many administrators and teachers share interesting Tweets about hands-on learning inside and outside of the classroom. Follow along!

“At Canterbury, we know the students well. We meet them where they are,” Mr. Skeen emphasized during his presentation.

Where are middle school students anyway? From age 10 to 15, they are in a stage of rapid brain development. Until about 10 years ago, teachers and parents believed most of a child’s brain development was finished by middle school. The job was to fill the brain with knowledge…like a little vessel. Through the use of brain imaging, neurologists found the brain actually grows a lot during the middle school years. The only other comparable stage is birth to age three.

So this is not our version of middle school (junior high, anyone?) because educators are meeting children at this newly discovered place of brain growth. And with brain changes come significant social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students.

Mr. Skeen also explained that the job of the middle school is to provide “structure and relationships to help (students) accomplish their goals in safe and healthy ways.”

One example of the Canterbury structure is the Social Contract. Students in 5th through 8th grade meet to represent their grade levels and decide what the rules for middle school students should be. Once they agree upon these rules, the Social Contract is drafted, signed, framed and hung in Armfield Hall as a reminder of their agreement with each other and the faculty. The contract is one way Canterbury sets high expectations for every member of the community.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.05.11 PMTwenty-first century skills of scholarship, leadership, and service are also a focus. When I first heard the phrase “21st century skills,” my mind went to technology and the tablet learning program, but I had so much to learn. These skills are also developed through understanding others. The program “In My Neighbor’s Shoes” is a three day service learning project in which students explore how other people in our community live. Each middle school grade visits various areas of Greensboro to learn more about the realities of others, and they must articulate their experience to the rest of the student body.

In terms of academic support, the middle school has created layers of contact with the students. Each child is assigned to an advisory, similar to a home room but with much more character development. These advisory teachers are the first and last teachers students see, and they continue the “morning meeting” type of activity that the middle school students first experienced in lower school. In addition to the instruction students gain from teachers throughout the day, faculty members offer optional after-school tutorial sessions – much like a professor’s office hours – for students who want extra help. Students also have the benefit of an additional team of faculty members who help guide them: Judy Cram, Middle School Student Support Services; Kat Wolfson, Middle School Counselor; The Rev. Nathan Finnin, Chaplain; and Kathy Durham, Director of Student Life.

“I like the message that the after-school tutorials sends to the kids,” Andrea Spencer observed. Her daughter will enter middle school next year. “That message is: ‘The work is challenging, but we are here for you; take the responsibility to come to us.’”

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All 5th grade students will attend a study skills class for the first part of the year to provide a solid foundation for academic success. They will also get an opportunity to sample foreign language offerings before choosing one language to study for the duration of their time at Canterbury.

Fourth grade students will begin to visit the middle school in small groups, and they will each have a big sister or big brother who will help answer questions and show them the ropes. Probably the most exciting part of orientation is early adoption of the middle school dress code for 4th grade students in the spring trimester.

One orientation or one blog post can only scratch the surface of the spirit of the middle school at Canterbury. I would encourage parents to subscribe to the Twitter feed for Dave Skeen and other faculty members to get a snapshot of middle school activities. From following our amazing faculty, I learn something new every day.

by Kelly McKee

mckee Kelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated). Follow her on Twitter: @narrowprovince

Harriette Knox: Mother and Marketer

Growing up, Harriette Knox wanted to be a newspaper reporter, so she went to UNC and majored in journalism. “I was a reporter for a while, but that evolved into writing for marketing and public relations,” she says. “I did that for two different community colleges, a clothing manufacturer, and for Nabisco Foods before I stopped working to stay home with our son.”

Now, Canterbury is fortunate to have Harriette on staff as the school’s new marketing and communications coordinator.

Director of Marketing Harriette Knox

Marketing and Communications Coordinator Harriette Knox

Harriette brings more than a wealth of professional experience to the job. She also brings the perspective of a parent whose child graduated from Canterbury.

“I went to an Episcopal school, and it was a wonderful experience,” she says. “It was a small school like Canterbury, so the teachers really knew each student, and encouraged you to think and to try new things. We wanted Davis to have all that in a school, too.”

Davis is now a freshman at Johns Hopkins University majoring in engineering. He’s also a mid-distance free-styler on the Hopkins swim team. Currently, his goal is to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree and go to graduate school to learn how to design ships.

Harriette is married to Dr. Robert (Bob) Knox, who has practiced periodontics in Greensboro since 1990. Bob grew up in Greensboro and went to Irving Park, Aycock, and Page schools. He and Harriette met in Chapel Hill and lived there through his dental school graduation. Then they moved to New Orleans for his specialty training before coming to Greensboro in 1990.

“There’s one Canterbury story we still laugh about,” Harriette recalls. “As a writing exercise, Mary Ann Sacco had her second graders write a letter to Santa. She saved the letters. The year Davis was in eighth grade, she gave the letter back to us. It said something like, ‘Dear Santa, For Christmas I want Legos and a new mother.’ I think he was hoping he could swap me out for Mary Ann!”

Harriette is excited to be in a position that allows her to do what she loves for a place that is meaningful to her.

“Marketing the school is about finding ways to tell everyone what makes a Canterbury education so special,” she says. “The small size means every child is known and cared for. The PreK-8 setting means we focus on the special needs of young children and adolescents. We educate the whole child: mind, body and spirit. And as an Episcopal school, we value strong academics, know that diversity is important, and allow children to explore their own spirituality without telling them what to believe.”

Her job is made easier by the fact that Canterbury has parents who feel passionate about their children’s experience and are enthusiastic about spreading the word.

“Parents are actually the most important marketers a school has. People often choose schools based on what their friends have told them, so Canterbury parents are in the best position to tell people about the great experience at Canterbury.”

Harriette with her husband Bob (left) and their son Davis.

Harriette with her husband Bob (left) and their son Davis.

Being back at Canterbury has brought back memories of when she was a parent with a child at the school. “When I started working here, I got a tour of the lower and middle schools because so much has changed. At the same time, Bob and I were getting Davis packed to go to college, and I had been doing okay with that. On my tour of the lower school, this little brown-haired boy – probably six years old – walked out into the hall, and that’s when I got teary,” she recounts. “When you’re a Canterbury parent, you know your child is fortunate to be here, but you get caught up in the busyness of school. When I saw that little boy who reminded me of Davis, it really hit home how fast time flies, but also how safe and loved Davis was here compared to a big, scary college!”

At Canterbury, children get a great education, but more importantly, Harriette says, they are known and loved. “Every year that Davis was here, his teacher knew him well enough to expect the best from him and to know when to push him in places he needed to grow.”

“My favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. As a kindergartener, it’s great to get to know an older student. As a sixth grader, it’s a wonderful leadership opportunity. And as a parent, it’s fun to watch your child’s chapel buddy grow up and then to watch your child take on that responsibility as well.”

by Andrea Crossley Spencer

AC Spencer Fall 2012 Headshot copy 2Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (4th – Hoover), a freelance writer, and a creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s after school fine arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, chocolate peanut butter shakes and listening to David Gray.