School music programs in spotlight this month

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans


Arnold Elementary School Music Teacher Joanne Maples encourages her students to use creative writing skills to come up with a phrase that helps them remember where the notes "E," "G," "B," "D," and "F" are located on the lines of a musical scale.

Maples gives the youths suggestions, including "Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips," and "Every Georgia Bulldog Does Fight," as examples of creative ways to remember the ascending order of the notes. Then she lets the children's creativity run wild as they come up with their own phrases.

On Tuesday, for example, one of her third-grade students came up with "Ella's Garden Blooms Daily Frequently," she said.

"They can learn anything through a song, so we try to incorporate that every time we do music," said Maples, who is also the chairperson-elect of the Georgia Music Educators Association's elementary division.

School music programs are in the spotlight throughout March, as MENC: The National Association for Music Education celebrates "Music in Our Schools Month." According to MENC's web site, "Music in Our Schools Month" began as a single-day event in 1973, and was expanded to a full week four years later. In 1985, it became a month-long celebration, according to the web site.

The theme for this year's celebration is "Music! Just Imagine ..."

Arnold Elementary School first-grader, Ricky Parker, 7, said he experiences learning on a variety of levels, from learning how to play the guitar, to learning songs that help him remember things that help him in language arts and mathematics. "In kindergarten, I learned how to count, and I learned the ABCs through songs we sang in music class," he said.

One of Parker's classmates, Jordyn Willis, 6, said she has learned how to identify word patterns through some of the songs she has been taught in her music class. "Today [Wednesday], I learned about A-B rotating patterns," she said.

Mark Gladfelter, a music education student from Clayton State University who is doing his student teaching with Maples, said music is important to a person's ability to learn because it taps into both their creative, and intellectual, personalities.

"Music is very fundamental," he said. "It can be used to teach everything ... Studies have shown it connects both sides of the brain, and if you're using both sides of your brain, you can learn so much more."

While reading is often labeled "the foundation of education" by teachers and librarians, Maples said music goes hand in hand with reading, because it can be used to help children advance their reading skills, in terms of proficiency and vocabulary.

"In music, the words follow a beat, so the children have to be able to read the words they are singing quickly," Maples said. "Because we're putting it to music, it propels them to read at a faster pace. I remember, as a child, learning new words through singing."

Math also can be taught to students by teaching them music, and not just by teaching the youths songs about counting, Maples said. "They learn two quarter-notes equal a half-note," she said.