Studio to School

REFLECTION #1: SO, FA, SO GOOD

Learning that we had received the OCF Studio to School grant, back in the spring of 2014, was like a drop of golden sun. We gathered our committee, and began making plans right away.

THE LAUNCH
Our original plan called for summer music camps, to begin in the summer of 2014. But, we soon learned that planning for a successful summer camp takes many months, and we just did not have enough time to do it right. It was difficult to locate and recruit potential students so late in the school year, and we could not find transportation for children from remote areas, whose parents were not available. So we postponed the summer camp until 2015, and engaged in our other projects.

June 2014 -- Members of the Taft 7-12 Jazz Band, with pianist Mei Ting Sun.

June 2014 — Members of the Taft 7-12 Jazz Band, with pianist Mei Ting Sun.

June — As part of the opening performance of the Siletz Bay Music Festival, Taft (7-12) Jazz Band students performed with Music Legends pianist, Mei-Ting Sun and vocalist, Rocky Blumhagen. A minor though important part of community outreach, our Music Legends initiative gives students the opportunity to perform with renowned musicians. As one student commented, “Wow, whatever comes next in life I will always remember that this night I actually performed with Mei-Ting Sun!”

September — Around 65 sixth graders, bused from the two elementary schools, arrive for their first day of band. Instruments were not only assigned, but provided free of charge. They also receive free breakfast, so that no-one starts their practice hungry. Community support was positive and local press recognized the event.
BAND IS BACK The News Guard 0924 2014

September — First-year music teacher Lindsay Fuson took over the music program at Taft Elementary, instructing students in grades 1-5. Using grant funds she ordered new instruments, including nine new tubano drums, scarves for movement and music interpretation as well as boomwhacker tubes. Fourth, fifth and sixth graders are participating in a recorder unit using a curriculum called Recorder Karate, also purchased through the grant. In Recorder Karate, students practice and test independently to receive belts, starting at white and eventually working up the levels to receive the black belt. Students have been proud of their work in class and have shown a vast improvement on playing the recorder as well as reading music notation. First through third graders are playing drums and Orff instruments, and learning Curwen hand symbols to assist in music sight readings. Second and third graders are preparing to perform in a musical called Go Fish, while fourth graders are working on a musical called “Compose Yourself” and fifth graders are working on a version of “Stomp.”

Lindsay Fuson, the music teacher at Taft and Oceanlake Elementary Schools, leads one of her first classes.

Lindsay Fuson, the music teacher at Taft and Oceanlake Elementary Schools, leads one of her first classes.

November — The redesign of the Taft cafeteria/stage area into a performance area, which began in June under the leadership of Taft 7-12 music teacher Andy Hordichok, is complete. The opening of the facility will be previewed at the winter concerts.

December — S2S and its partners will celebrate winter concerts for students at Taft Elementary grades 1-5, as well as the new sixth grade band, the two middle school ensembles, symphonic band, jazz band and others.

SURPRISES?
When asked, all the members of our committee had the same response: we’ve all been pleasantly surprised, and gratified at the progress our schools have already made.

“During the beginning stages of launching a new music program, I have been really impressed by how much support I have gotten,” said the new music teacher, Lindsay Fuson. “Not only have I received support from the Siletz Bay Music Festival Board, but also from my administration and the community. Students are hungry for music in the North County and their enthusiasm absolutely blew me away from the start.”

Majalise Tolan, the principal of Taft 7-12, was in charge of coordinating the sixth grade band on her campus. She held up a welcome sign on the first day, and insisted that all the students eat breakfast before they began. Even so, she’s been surprised at the early success of this program.

“We have had more of a struggle handling the breakfast in the band room than I would have thought,” she said. “But that being said, I am surprised at the number of 6th graders who have stuck with the band class and the smoothness that we had having 6th graders take the class up at Taft 7-12.”

CHALLENGES
As mentioned above, the committee decided to forgo its first summer band camp, and instead concentrate on the successful launch of the sixth grade band. Based on early registration, conducted in June, we knew that we could expect as many as 75 sixth graders to take part. Most of them would be absolute beginners, without any experience in the subject or in the behavioral expectations, in a strange school, with many unknown students and staff. To smooth this transition, the S2S committee paid for three band specialists to help in the classroom during the first month.

Band director Andy Hordichok, who is also an expert instrument repairman, made sure that all the sixth graders had an instrument to take home.

“I think the idea to cancel Band Camp and flood the band with support the first few weeks has been a large help in getting the program off the ground smoothly,” said principal Tolan. “Getting instruments to students quickly helped sustain early engagement.”

We recorded the first note ever played by these sixth graders, who had filled the Taft 7-12 band room to capacity. To hear it, click here.

At the elementary level, Ms. Fuson is facing her own set of challenges. She is not only teaching young students music, she is reintroducing the “winter pageant” to Taft Elementary and its families.

“As I’m preparing the students for the upcoming concerts using funds from the grant, I’ve realized how involved putting on a show is. The students are so excited to be able to perform in front of their peers and parents so it’s been hard for me to want to simplify the process in any way, shape or form. Putting on a play (or 4!) is a lot of work and I’ve slowly realized that I am putting the success of the shows completely in the hands of a group of awesome kids,” she said.

Rilke Klingsporn, the principal at Oceanlake Elementary, takes a wider view of our committee’s obstacles. She and her staff have learned how to organize the school schedule around the sixth grade band transportation and absence from campus, while they anxiously wait for their turn in Ms. Fuson’s care.

“Some of the challenges are balancing existing programs/structures with new the potentials of the project,” Klingsporn said. “Also, needing to move slowly and intentionally is sometimes hard to wait for. There is a lot that we want to do, but we also don’t want to overload the system or our teachers. If we take on a little bit at a time and let the program grow, it is more likely to be successful and sustainable.”

We’ve received great support from the administration of the Lincoln County School District. Our project was featured in the district newsletter.

District Dialog December 2014

SMART DECISIONS
One of our early goals, trying to have a summer camp within the first few months of our S2S formation, turned out to be impossible. But deciding against that project, in order to focus on the sixth grade band, turned out to be a good move. Other early determinations were much more successful.

1) We were lucky in that our project team includes all the major decision-makers at our affected schools: principals Majalise Tolan, Rilke Klingsporn and Nick Lupo; our music teachers Andy Hordichok (Taft 7-12) and Lindsay Fuson (Taft and Oceanlake elementaries); and the leaders of our partner organizations Niki Price (LCCC) and Christine Tell (SBMF). The result is that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently.
Levi Cotter, a student at Taft Elementary School.
2) Our project team decided that no student would have to rent or buy an instrument. Given the high poverty levels in our area, this has ensured that all students can participate. This will also build our schools’ inventory of instruments that will help sustain the program beyond the STS grant.

3) We identified needed support and provided it during the early stages of the program. Three additional band assistants who are highly trained musicians, were brought in for the first month of the 6th grade band program. They provided individualized and small group instruction, allowed students to choose instruments and supported development of music literacy skills. This approach prevented students from becoming discouraged early on. Our pre-post assessment results revealed that our 65 first time musicians acquired music literacy skills within the first 8 weeks of school. “I think the idea to cancel band camp and flood the band with support the first few weeks has been a large help in getting the program off the ground smoothly,” Ms. Tolan said. “Getting instruments to students quickly helped sustain early engagement.”

4) Because we are partnering with our Lincoln City Cultural Center, we have been able to collaborate on our Artists in Schools/Education Outreach very quickly. As a result we are bringing very high quality programs to students and when possible introduce opportunities for them to join in the performance.
“The pieces that we have already implemented have made such a huge impact for so many of our kids,” said Klingsporn. “For example, deciding to spend a chunk of funding up-front on purchasing a fleet of instruments has allowed us to get more students involved from the beginning. Students and parents are very excited about being part of band at the 6th grade level.”

The grant also enabled Ms. Fuson to purchase new curriculum immediately, so she has been able to see the result right away.

“Choosing to use Recorder Karate was an easy and seemingly small decision on my part but the students became extremely excited to be able to learn new songs at their own pace. Students thrived in learning to sight read music as well as rhythmic passages. Because this was such a big hit, I improvised a way for students to continue to learn an instrument at their own pace by creating a keyboard karate curriculum with the same belts and levels but with piano music instead. I look forward to seeing students be able to learn piano in the coming weeks,” she said.

NEXT STEPS
Over the next few weeks, we will be enjoying the winter concert season, including the first concert of the sixth grade band on Dec. 11. Members of the Siletz Bay Music Festival Board will be on hand to usher, and to celebrate with the families of the students.

Our first big outreach program will take place on Dec. 16, with “Sound of Nature, Sound of Art.” It will feature three works that are inspired by Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, played by the Three Centuries Ensemble. The art classes will also take part, responding to the works and their themes of land, sea and gesture. The sixth, seventh and eighth grade music students will be attending the morning concert at Taft 7-12.

In January, we will begin our focus on the integration of music into the general curriculum. We have two teams of teachers who will launch our initial effort. They are knowledgeable, enthused and looking forward to their projects. However, our greatest challenge is a lack of examples of arts integration projects that provide good models and that will contribute to students academic learning. This reinforces for us the need for the STS project to provide those models.

CONCLUSION
We’ve been able to make our first notes, and we’re happy about our project launch. But as we plan to go “Fa, a long long way to run,” we’re pacing ourselves. So …. away we go!

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