The Grade Blog

Friday, Aug 30 2013 04:48 PM

Music teachers entice students with concert

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Justin Lee and Crystal Walker join with other Bakersfield City School District music teachers in introducing children at Franklin Elementary School to music to encourage them to participate in the district's music program.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rain Hernandez and Rey Meza seem to enjoy the concert by Bakersfield City School District music teachers to introduce children at Franklin Elementary School to music.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Music teachers introduce children at Franklin Elementary School to the joys of performing music.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Talyia Hendrix's face lights up as she listens to music by the Bakersfield City School District music teachers.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield City School District music teacher Karl Stratemeier introduces children at Franklin Elementary School to the bell kit percussion instrument.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

Dressed as Dorothy, Bakersfield City School District music teacher Crystal Walker rapped on a makeshift Emerald City gate to ask The Great and Powerful Oz for help getting home.

He advised her to take up the flute and practice for 30 minutes a day.

"That will get you home," said the booming disembodied voice, which had previously recommended the clarinet to the scarecrow, the violin to the tin man and the trombone to the cowardly lion.

The not-so-subtle message was part of a musical tour the district organizes each year to encourage students to learn to play an instrument.

Music teachers have been performing annually at BCSD schools since 1970. Friday's show at Franklin Elementary School was the last of 31 assemblies throughout the district over the last 10 school days.

The performers were an administrator and the 10 traveling music instructors who teach at the district's 33 elementary schools, as well as Cyndi Hicks, who volunteers as a drummer when she's not running Rusty's Pizza.

The teachers paused during the show to present her with a certificate of appreciation, saying they hoped the music wasn't too "cheesy" and the songs weren't too "crusty."

Karl Stratimeier got the most applause during the introductions because he teaches at Franklin. After the assembly, he reminded students to talk to their parents if they were interested in joining the school band or glee club.

"You all got your letters, right?" he said of letters about the music program that were sent home to parents.

The show started out with a traditional concert of child-friendly numbers such as "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Monsters Inc.

Then it morphed into an elaborate musical complete with costumes and props. This year's theme, which changes every year, was "The Wizard of Oz."

Some songs were ensemble numbers, but there were a few that showcased various families of instruments such as strings, woodwind and brass.

The sliding of the trombone elicited a lot of oos and ahs from children seated in neat rows on the floor of the cafeteria.

One song --"Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid"-- was entirely done on flutophone. That's the instrument every third-grader in the district starts out with.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders can then choose to study a different instrument, or drop out of the music program.

The annual shows are designed to entice children to keep going after that initial exposure, said Mike Stone, who played trombone in the concert and coordinates the Visual and Performing Arts Department at BCSD.

For some children, the concert is their first experience with live music.

"It's available, but I don't think all families take advantage of it," Stone said.

Studies show students who play musical instruments perform better academically and get along better with their peers, he said.

That's one reason that even in the lean years following the recession, BCSD has stuck with its music program, which recently won an award from the National Association of Music Merchants.

Stone praised the district's school board for seeing to it that not one music teacher was laid off in the last five years.

The annual shows are "very effective" at getting students to consider studying music, Stratimeier said.

"You can really see the enthusiasm of the students," he said.

And there's no excuse for not playing because the district will provide any student who needs one with an instrument, said Tim Fulenwider, director of BCSD's instructional support services division.

"We really pride ourselves on that," he said.

Rachel Doucette, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Franklin, credited the show in part for her decision to take up the violin.

It also didn't hurt that a neighbor plays the violin, and she hears him practicing sometimes.

"It sounds really pretty," she said.

Doucette said she looks forward to the show every year, and this year's didn't disappoint.

"I think it was awesome," she said.

Third-grader Isaac Gonzalez, 8, said he loved the show, too, especially the piano, which he'd like to learn one day.

"That was cool. I've seen 'The Wizard of Oz!' he said, eyes gleaming. "It has flying monkeys!"

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