Friday, July 29, 2016

What Music in Schools Can Do For Our Children- From a Teacher in Upstate New York

During some of my most tumultuous family years in elementary school I was blessed to have an incredible, truly incredible music teacher. I don't believe we had a separate chorus. Every student in each grade was expected to perform in each school concert. Each season from 3rd-5th she would introduce us to a musical and teach us the lyrics to many songs from the show and that would be the base for our seasonal concert. Here's what this experience did for a pained, shy girl with a speech impediment:
1. I could lose myself among the voices of my peers. No one to looking at me (since we were all concentrating on our parts). I always felt in the spotlight imagining others could see my shame. That thought was totally self inflicted.
2. The beautiful music! Scores to make my heart soar and lyrics that inspired hope and made me feel I wasn't alone in my thinking and experiences.
3. The music gave me another soundtrack in my head that if I chose I could easily pluck from my building music catalog and implant to drown out the noise of the not so nice sounds of my childhood.
4. A continued love for musical theater!!!
5. Being a part of something bigger than myself.
6. Security. Expectations were clear. We had our role. You knew what you had to do to make this all happen. For children living in a world of chaos, this is a small, but precious gift.

I moved in 6th grade to a new school that also had a wonderful music program. Different, but still rich and that made a lasting mark.
Then came Junior High, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac and other artists to rock my world forever. And albums with lyrics written inside the album covers and sleeves to pour over and belt again and again.
The music program in the school I teach in is truly remarkable at this time. Our elementary teacher is cut from the same cloth as my music teachers. Chorus from 4th grade on. Chamber choir. Band starting in 5th grade. Award winning high school band. A full ORCHESTRA! This in a community of high poverty and quiet desperation. Believe me I have seen the results of these opportunities shape many young lives in our community. Many inspiring stories. Unfortunately,
our current administration has done a few things to undermine and try to dwindle our program, but parents and teachers are in big push back mode right now and believe it can be restored. Music of course is also an integral part of my classroom experience as well.Each year I play the To Kill a Mockingbird Suite for my 5th graders. No discussion at 1st. Just write whatever comes into your head. I love watching their faces as the mood changes throughout and I see the switch to writing about something else. After we share. So profound. Some shares are lyrical, some deeply painful, and inspirational in ways not expected.
These are my thoughts and experiences about what music in schools can do for our children.