Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Week 1: Setting the Stage for Our Kinder Musicians

Tazer and Mr. Xia play Dvorak's Humoresque for Glacier Valley kindergartners
How do you inspire a kindergartner to play violin and persevere through those initial squeaks and squawks?  Answer:  Invite Tazer to perform!  Tazer (photo above) started playing at age five, but now has two years of violin lessons under his belt.  Now how do you inspire a parent to persevere through those same squawks?  Answer:  Invite David, a high school student who started playing at age five, to immediately follow Tazer.   Both are students of Mr. Xia. 

In a span of five minutes, our kindergartners and their families witnessed the tremendous musical growth, stage presence and maturity that can occur when a child receives consistent musical support throughout his or her school years.

That is how Glacier Valley Elementary School kicked off its first week of JAMM, along with two evenings of "paper violin" building for kindergartners and their families.  The paper orchestra project comes directly from the Venezuelan free music education program, El Sistema, which has served over 1 million children.  There, children and families hand craft paper string instruments so that young learners can develop respect, care and discipline for their instruments while also building basic musicianship skills, such as singing.  Thank you Josbel Puche and Veronice Useche, both teachers at  La Rinconada Nucleo in Caracas, for sharing this project with me and so many others. 

Our JAMM event had an incredible turn-out both nights.  Families from two of the four kindergarten classes were encouraged to come one night so that they'd have the opportunity to mix and mingle with parents and kids from their child's class.  The other two classes came the following night.  Two major supporters of the JAMM program attended as well:  Paul Douglas from the Douglas-Dornan Foundation and Sally Rue from the Association of Alaska School Boards.  Each were presented with a completed paper violin (see photo below).

Kindergarten teachers, Kaye Peters and JoAnn Steininger, pose with Paul Douglas of the Douglas-Dornan Foundation holding his Paper Violin (photo by Ryan Aguilar)

Sally Rue noted that the kindergartners at her table easily identified all of the parts to her paper violin, which the students learned in their first week of violin classes.  Thank you, Lisa Miles, Juneau Suzuki teacher, for sharing your lyrics "Parts of a Violin" which is sung to Lightly Row, a Suzuki piece in Book 1.  During this event, kindergartners also sang "Five Little Monkeys" with their arms held high above their heads to show their parents how they are building upper body strength through song and finger play in preparation for holding their real violin.  Their favorite part of the song is at the end when the alligator misses the last monkey.  They all sing, "Miss me, miss me, now you gotta kiss me."

Kindergartners sing "Five Little Monkeys" (photo by Michael Penn)
For those students whose families couldn't attend, some of our Glacier Valley 5th graders became a kinder buddy and together built the violin during the school day.

Kaden helps his kinder buddy finish her paper violin
Thank you Tazer, Alexander and David for inspiring our 65 kindergartners and their families with your beautiful playing!  For more details about our paper violin building event, check out this front page article from The Juneau Empire:  Unique music program spreads to Juneau starting with paper violins.

Ashiya carries her violin over to the table to dry (photo by Michael Penn)

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