“The philosophy of my school was, it’s more about the learning process than the result. So, it was more centered towards people growing as responsible people.”
Diploma Programme (DP) alumnus Alejandro Viramontes attended La Escuela de Lancaster, Mexico. At Lancaster, he tells us, “the philosophy of my school was, it’s more about the learning process than the result. So, it was more centered towards people growing as responsible people.” The small secondary school empowers students to be self-reliant and responsible. The advantage, Alejandro says is that “You could take things at your own pace,” allowing him to choose to expand his education beyond the requirements of the IB diploma.
As a highly motivated student, this approach fueled his learning and helped him thrive in the programme. Alejandro knew that music was his calling. By the time he was 8 years old he could play classical guitar and by 17 had added piano to his repertoire. It was no surprise that by his second year of the IB diploma, he had a lead role in a band outside of school. Having music be a part of life, he says, “It always felt natural to me. I felt at home.” Not surprisingly, shortly after arriving at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, he has also picked up the violin.
For an individual with great talent, why deepen your knowledge in subjects beyond music? There were students at Lancaster who told Alejandro just this, discouraging him from even thinking about entering the DP. “I took it as a challenge to prove everyone wrong,” he tells us. “The DP is going to give you a very general sense on everything,” he says, “I don’t think there is anyone in this world with just one interest in their life.”
While he actively sought to broaden his education, his greatest passion became composing music and the DP allowed him to grow in this area. In DP music higher level (HL), compositions were part of his coursework, but he recalls, “[Composing] wasn’t as much of a requirement, it was something I enjoyed.” The course offered a theory-focused approach rather than performance and this appealed to his musical instincts. “I do not see myself as a performer, though I’m decent [at it],” he said when we asked about performing, “I see myself more as a composer, so the theory side was much more interesting to me.”
“It was an interesting experience. You needed to do a bit of everything.”
He made four compositions for his DP music course: one for classical guitar, one for piano, a string quartet, and a composition of one of the songs from his band. Each of them was a different style and Alejandro told us this was part of how the HL music course was designed. “It was an interesting experience. You needed to do a bit of everything,” he said, explaining that this isn’t the usual concept for musicians; they normally pick a specialty and focus on it.
Alejandro also used his talents to complete the core components of the IB diploma. We asked him about creativity, activity, service (CAS) and if he had related it to music. Unexpectedly, he told us about the Proyecto de Educación Comunitaria programme at Lancaster, or PEC for short. It’s a programme run by the school that allows students to “give back physically to the community.” Each project allows students to become teachers and offer to teach skills to those in the community who don’t have the opportunity they have for a formal education. Their initiatives included offering technology skills to the elderly or even helping people learn to read. “When you’re teaching someone,” he commented, “you start to realize if you really know your stuff,” emphasizing that learning and teaching are two sides of the same coin.
Alejandro recently completed his studies in music composition at Berklee. Given his success, we asked if he could offer music-minded students advice about the Diploma Programme. He says, “… take the DP, mostly out of interest for other subjects … It makes you more cultured [and] more educated. It gives you a general sense of critical thinking and writing. It will give you much better presentation in any form of work.”