Classical music comes to county classrooms
Mozart has moved into several Nevada County classrooms this year.
For 10 or 15 minutes each day, Melissa Fowlkes’ third-grade Hennessy School class listens to classical music.
Fowlkes then reads a few sentences about the piece or the composer.
The 8-year-olds are taking part in a music education pilot program developed by two Canadian teachers, Karen Taylor and David Brummett.
The idea is that playing classical music five minutes a day, five days a week, for five years gives children an appreciation of an intricate art form they wouldn’t otherwise have.
After some experimentation, Fowlkes decided that right after lunch was the best time to play the music. “It calms them down and gets them ready for the next learning session,” she said.
When the students return from lunch, she turns off the lights.
“Remember, we decided the best way to listen is to lie on our backs,” Fowlkes reminded the students.
Fowlkes then played some of Mozart’s “Eine Kliene Nachtmusik” serenade in G Major. “We don’t do as much art and music as we used to,” she said.
That a few Nevada County classrooms – at Chicago Park, Deer Creek and Ready Springs schools – have the program at all is due to Music in the Mountains.
Dan Zeisler, superintendent and principal of Chicago Park School, said the program is “in full gear here.”
“Every class in the school is on the same artist at the same time every morning,” Zeisler said. “It’s really exciting.”
Chris Wade, one of Fowlkes’ students, agreed that a few minutes of Mozart means he “gets to calm down and cool off if we’re upset.”
Diane Robertson, who serves on MIM’s education committee, discovered the program, talked to David Brummet, “got excited about it and wanted to see it everywhere,” she said.
A donor purchased 22 of the $220 sets of teachers’ guides and eight CDs featuring classical music from the last four centuries.
The CDs feature short pieces from larger works by well-known composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn, along with such public radio favorites such as Albinoni, Bartok, Britten, Copland, Prokofiev and Vivaldi. Even classical music aficionados may pick up a new name or two, like Orlando Gibbons or William Byrd.
A visit from MIM co-founder Paul Perry allowed third-grader Daniel Frehling to ask his burning question: Are strings on musical instruments made from catgut?
Not anymore, Perry answered. Music sounds brighter coming from steel strings and “we’re not mean to kitties anymore,” Perry said.
The organization is seeking donors to adopt a class in order to expand the program to other schools.
“Children who hang out with music develop an affinity for that music,” Laura Keranen, a member of the education committee, explained.
Music in the Mountains can be reached at 265-6173.
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