Another reflection of a music teacher

Last night, I led my first-ever elementary school music performances. I have led many successful middle and high school band and orchestra concerts, but this was my first elementary school “chorus” concert. It was only 5th graders. In this depressed part of town, we had exactly 50% of the students attend the concert. Only half of the kids showed up? I couldn’t believe it! BUT, their teachers were ecstatic — these ladies, who know the kids much better than I — didn’t expect that good of a turn out. Interesting. Is there a way to increase that in the future?

Having this event was a chore in the making, though. These kids haven’t had a public performance for several years. We certainly had to make some accommodations to pull off the event. First, I let them use lyric sheets and not feel the pressure memorizing. Secondly, using standard choral music certainly didn’t go over well with this group. So, we did one “choral” piece and two popular pieces (with very inspirational lyrics).

The kids, who are the rowdiest bunch of 10-year olds, really stepped up for the occasion. They said things like, “I’m so nervous!” And, then into the multipurpose room they went — poised and respectful — to an awaiting and expectant (nearly) full house! The kids had a good time, they sang purposefully, and they audience responded fully and exuberantly. Kids smiled and stayed after to have pictures taken.

For lifelong music engagement – performing, creating, playing – we need to let go of the rules sometimes so kids can figure it out. Thanks for a good effort to those 5th graders. Thanks to the families of 50% of the class for bringing them and for being there to support them.

Now, let’s see if the excitement will spread to 75% participation in the spring…


About mundyviar

Basil Mundy Viar, III, is a newly relocated music teacher in the Palm Springs Unified School District of California, USA. For the past 18 years, he served the students and families within the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. In this role, he discovered the need for a reevaluation of the roles, purposes, and directions of scholastic music in a changing community and in a changing economy. The direction of his doctoral work was largely influenced by this experience. He researches the attitudes, levels of satisfaction, and lifelong learning effects of music training both inside and outside of the traditional school experience, with an eye on the roles that community based organizations may play in this. Prior to his assignment as a public school music teacher, Dr. Viar served as a Program Director for the Blue Devils, an internationally revered youth organization dedicated to performance excellence, also based in Concord, California, USA. During his time with the Blue Devils, the "B" Corps was reinvigorated and performed with renewed excitement, proficiency, and levels of success. Under Dr. Viar's guidance, BDB performed in the 1997 Drum Corps International World Championships in Orlando, Florida, and the 1998 World Marching Band Festival in Kanagawa Prefecture Japan. Basil Mundy Viar, III, is a graduate of the Transformative Inquiry Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies (PhD) in San Francisco, California, USA. He earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of California, Berkeley; Single Subject Teaching Credential from the Bay Area College of Chapman University in Orange, California; and a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Community and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University of Richmond, Virginia, USA.
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