By Ms. Betsy Greene, Music Teacher, and Dr. Dorinne Dorfman, Principal
In March, five extraordinary arts events take place at Champlain. The vision of our music and art teachers, Ms. Betsy Greene and Ms. Sonny Sammut, bring these invaluable learning and performance opportunities to our students. Months ago we began planning over email. Dr. Dorfman’s enthusiasm bubbled over when she wrote:
By the way, I will never stop appreciating or thanking you for the real music education you provide our students. This is because I never had such a teacher in elementary or middle school, and just like I didn't have Chemistry in high school, as a result, am disadvantaged as an adult. I never bothered with music in high school, so resistant I had become, despite the fact that my friends told me the chorus teacher was fabulous. This is a fascinating example to me about the "window" of time we have to reach kids. For some things, the arts especially, high school may be too late to draw them in.
Ms. Greene replied to the message:
Thank you for the incredible words of appreciation. Elementary school is the only time we are able to reach 100% of the school population for music education. You are right, if during this time, students not only grow musically, but have meaningful musical experiences, they will seek them out as adults and be more likely to use music in their everyday lives, like singing a lullaby to their children, dancing at weddings, going to music events, etc. Just being able to function socially with music and with their families creates community and bonding between individuals and groups. We may take for granted or sometimes forget the real importance of music education. And if we do not have people who are able to do music (sing, keep the beat, sense the emotion), we will not be able to use music to enrich our lives in these time-honored ways.
The first March event is the Burlington School District Strings Concert for grades 4-12 on Thursday, March 9 at 7pm, taking place in the high school auditorium.
The second March event is the Elementary Choral Festival organized by the Vermont Music Educators Association for fourth and fifth graders on March 10. The festival will be held at Mount Mansfield High School, and nearly one hundred students from all over Vermont will come together to rehearse, participate in a world drumming workshop, and present a concert at 5:30PM. The concert is open to the public. The cost is $5 for students/seniors; $7 for adults; and $15 per family. Fourteen Champlain Elementary Chorus students will participate in the new and exciting opportunity: Hawa Awayle, Rukiya Awayle, Mimi Dion, Devon Ellicock, Gillian Fairfax, Trudy Farrell, Ruby Hall, Oscar Jacobsen, Ceci Luce, Grace Maley, Anyier Manyok, Madison Palmer-Osborne, Abbot Terkel, and Annika Redmond. We are very proud of these fourteen students and all their hard work preparing for this event! Come join us for this surely remarkable concert!
The Annual Burlington City Arts Children’s Art Exhibition is this month’s third event. The show will hang in Burlington City Hall’s Metropolitan Gallery from March 8 to March 30. This annual art show celebrates the talent and dedicated work of elementary students from Burlington’s six schools. The Gallery is open from 8:30-4:30 each day, with an opening event on Wednesday, March 13 at 5-7pm. Artwork from the following students below have been work selected to be in the show this year: August Bauer, Sammy Berman, Evan Bretton, Eamon Brown, Rowan Clark, Tommy Colman, Ayanna Dayes,
Mae Dery, Amelia Dion, Serafina Erdogan, Lucia Esckilsen, Gillain Fairfax, Trudy Farrell, Layla Fisher, Dashiell Fleury-Bachman, Helen Franklin, William Haslam, Iris Hathaway, Miles Kenny, Morgan Kenny, Joe LaMonde, Greta Larson, Cora Lea, Amos Lilly, John Minor, Oliver Nichols, Brianna Partlow, Celia Rutter, Aven Smith, Emma Stearns, Marcel Vacariu-McLaughlin, Nora Vota, Geneva Walker, and Aleekeah Williams.
The fourth event features a performance by three Vermont Symphony Orchestra musicians for all Champlain students on Thursday, March 17. VSO musicians combine their concert with an educational workshop, “Drumshtick,” to enhance our students’ understanding of orchestral music. The show, “Percussion Means the World to Us,” “explores a culturally diverse repertoire and includes demonstrations of non-Western instruments. Through their sometimes zany humor they introduce children both to general musical concepts and to the family of percussion instruments,” (VSO Press Release, 2017).
Champlain’s Spring Concert performance, our final event, takes place on Friday, March 24 in our gym. Grades Kindergarten through second perform at 8:30am. At 9:15am, grades three, four, and five perform.
♫ Champlain’s Spring Concert - School-day Pilot ♫
For several years, Champlain educators have considered moving the annual student music performance from the evening to the daytime. Among the Burlington elementary schools, not all have a spring concert, and only one hosts an evening event for upper grades. The decision to pilot the music performance during the school day was not the result of adults’ preferences, but based on best practices for students.
Smith holds holiday and spring concerts during the school day. Integrated Arts Academy has no spring concert, but gives many performances during their “Town Meeting” on Fridays at 2:15pm. Edmunds has no concert, but hosts a “Fine Arts Night” over two evenings. Sustainability Academy hosts their spring concert at 9am. This is the second year that Flynn will host a daytime concert for grades K-1 and an evening concert for grades 2-5.
Only during the day can we guarantee that every student can fulfill the expectation to participate in a school concert. Students who miss an evening performance tend to be those most disadvantaged, due to family circumstances beyond their control. Missing their class performance can produce feelings of embarrassment, disconnect, or shame.
Champlain is improving its music program by shifting the purpose of performance from a show for parents to an educational experience for students. Already our Ms. Greene emphasizes that this is an “informance,” during which she explains their music lessons. With music twice a week, students have only 45 instructional hours of music curriculum in a year. We do not want to reduce this limited content by devoting classes to concert practice. Rehearsal time outside of music takes away from other subjects, which we already do for two weeks before the informance.
Students’ developmental differences cause reconsideration of the performances altogether. Specifically, music education in grades K-2 raises music aptitude. Emphasizing performance over development interrupts and diminishes this important process. A grade 3-5 concert would be more appropriate. As part of a vibrant music education program, every upper-elementary student needs to experience being a music performer and contributing to their class in a performance. In fact, self-selected fourth and fifth graders in the BSD strings program (March 9) and CES chorus (March 10) are performing this month during the evening, specifically so families can attend.
Champlain students are very fortunate that Ms. Greene is president-elect of the Feierabend Association for Music Education, a national organization for music educators. Her professor, Dr. Feierabend, has researched and written extensively on early childhood and music education, with a birth through adulthood approach to teaching and learning. For more information about this philosophy and practice, please visit the organization’s webpages: https://www.feierabendmusic.org/first-steps-in-music-for-preschool-and-beyond or http://www.giamusic.com/music_education/feier_lettertoprincipal.cfm.
Our family-school partnership committee is discussing creative ways to include parents in our school community. We have planned a Champlain community dinner on Friday, April 14th at 5:30-7pm in the gym, and hope families will sing and dance together at the event.
Regarding Step Up Day for fifth graders, this had been scheduled for the evening of Friday, June 9th in the gym. Stay tuned (no pun intended)!♪♪♬♪♪