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The Power of Music In Our Elementary Schools

By Rachel Blatt and the Elementary Music Staff

Elementary Students Share Songs and Sounds of the Holiday Season!

It’s that time of year. Stop and listen to the music! Lafayette students in grades K-5 showcased their music learning experiences in choral and instrumental concerts at Lafayette’s four elementary schools. LPIE is proud to fund the performing arts for all elementary students and help provide the school community with the joy of music.

Parents and families who came to the concerts were swept into the holiday spirit as each grade level sang a variety of favorite songs including "Hot Chocolate" from The Polar Express, "What A Wonderful World" (also expressed in sign language), "Jingle Bells", and "Season for Singing". Students "demonstrated their learning of a piece of the (Lafayette) musical experience”, said music teacher Angela Schmidt. Fifth grade students showed off their burgeoning skills in band, chorus and strings. These students were excited to share their newly learned skills in a concert setting. Most 5th graders began studying their instrument in August at the beginning of the school year. It was amazing to hear them perform "Ode to Joy", "Jingle Bells", "Light In The Hallway", and "Shine Your Way" with such confidence.

The current 5th Graders were the first group of students to go through the new music curriculum restructure when they were in fourth grade. Developed by Mrs. Brummel and Mrs. Schmidt, two of the four elementary music teachers, the music curriculum restructure was implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. It transitioned 4th Grade Music back to a General Music class. Students had the opportunity to experience in-depth instruction in voice, wind instruments, and strings. Each trimester focused on one of the three disciplines. This hands-on, in-depth experience allowed students to make a better choice for their 5th Grade Music Core Class.

Speaking with Mrs. Schmidt, she expressed how happy she was with the change, saying: “Students made more educated choices due to the experience of exploring each discipline. They now take their Music Core choice more seriously.” As a result, the enrollment in 5th Grade band, chorus and strings classes is more evenly distributed at each elementary school site. We could see the results in their performance, adding to the holiday spirit and the joyous celebration of music. With the approval of the 4th Grade music curriculum restructure and thanks to LPIE funding, a set of world drums and Orff Instruments (mallet percussion) was purchased for each elementary school site to support and enhance the music curriculum.

Q: What are the benefits of the Music Restructure?

A: District-wide 4th grade music classes were restructured to restore weekly general music. All 4th graders currently receive a 45 minute general music class each week. These classes will include an in-depth experience with wind, string and vocal disciplines. The benefits include:

* Focused study of wind, string and vocal disciplines

* Emphasis on further development of music literary skills

* Comprehensive musical experiences before choosing an ensemble class in 5th grade and beyond

* Focus on developmentally appropriate sequential general music curriculum for TK-4th grade

Q: Give a brief description of General Music?

A: Elementary students in the Lafayette school district participate in a weekly General Music Class. These classes focus on movement, music listening, developing music literacy skills, evaluating and analyzing music, as well as experiencing playing a wide variety of pitched and non-pitched classroom instruments.

Q: Provide specific of 5th Grade Performances:

A: Fifth graders in Band, Chorus and Strings classes have the opportunity to participate in 3 performances throughout the year. These are the December Winter Core Concerts, District Festivals and End of the Year Music Core Concerts.

Thank you to the students, music teachers, and LPIE music aides who rang in the holiday season with music. LPIE is thrilled to support music education in our schools!

Meet your LPIE Elementary School Music Teachers

Liz Brummel grew up in Rochester, NY and graduated with a Masters in Music Education from Ohio State University. She relocated to the Bay Area in 1993. Mrs. Brummel began teaching elementary music in 1997 and currently teaches general music and 5th grade strings throughout the district. She recently retired from the Army National Guard after 22 years of service and plays french horn in the DVC Wind Band conducted by Dr. Jonathan Knight. She teaches at all four elementary schools.

Olga Corcoran is originally from Russia. She received her Master’s Degree in Piano Pedagogy from Holy Names University in Oakland CA, and Master’s Degree in Music Education from Moscow State Institute of Music & Education. Her life’s passion is music. She enjoys teaching general music, choir, music theory and piano at various programs and schools. She also performs in solo recitals and as an accompanist for choirs, violinists and vocalists. Olga teaches at Happy Valley, Lafayette, and Springhill schools.

Angela Schmidt grew up in the Bay Area and earned her Masters in music education with a Kodaly Emphasis from Holy Names University in Oakland. She has been teaching general music and chorus in the Lafayette School District for 11 years. Outside of the school community, Mrs. Schmidt is a choral director for Danville Girls Chorus and an adult choir at Christ the King in Pleasant Hill. She teaches at all four elementary schools.

John Speers grew up in Lafayette and attended Springhill then Stanley Middle School. He received his Bachelors degree from the University of Michigan and his masters from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is currently in his 3rd year of teaching general music and chorus in the Lafayette School District. Outside of school, he teaches private flute, clarinet, and saxophone lessons, performs with the Castro Valley Community Band, and regularly plays chamber music with his friends who are also musicians. He teaches at all four elementary schools.

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