The Power of "Jingle Bells"

Recorders in Schools celebrates the Holidays

By Joselyn Wilkinson, Director of Education, Meet the Music

2015 marked an exciting year for Grand Vision’s Recorders in Schools program: it doubled in size and we added a second teaching artist to our staff. What began as a pilot project three years ago is now a full-fledged program serving over 460 fifth graders with weekly music classes in sixteen classrooms at six local schools.

For the past semester, students at Barton Hill Elementary, Cabrillo Ave. Elementary, Harry Bridges Span School, George de la Torre Elementary, Gulf Ave. Elementary and Pt. Fermin Marine and Science Magnet have been learning to play the recorder (a small flute like instrument), how to read music and play as an ensemble. They are led by veteran teaching artists, Mrs. Andrea Dowdell and Dr. Dawn Norfleet, and work in partnership with classroom teachers who extend music making throughout the school day. Recorders in Schools culminates in early May with recitals at each school, where students will show off their new skills and repertoire to family and peers.

Already, many classroom teachers took the initiative this past December to present their students playing holiday music for their schools’ winter concerts! At Gulf Avenue Elementary in Wilmington, teachers arranged “Jingle Bells,” “Ode to Joy,” and “The Dreidel Song” as a medley with keyboard accompaniment for an enthusiastic audience of parents and friends, encouraged by their proud principal, Mr. David Kooper. Mr. Kooper thanked Grand Vision’s Meet the Music program before the concert and asked for a group photo afterwards. Students smiled and giggled with excitement for their accomplishment and we could sense the strong group identity created through their experience.

We are so proud to serve our partner schools, and gratified by the dedication their classroom teachers bring to Recorders in Schools. The hard work of everyone involved has allowed so many fifth graders to learn to read music and play their first instrument, empowering them to take advantage of band and orchestra programs available to them in area middle schools and beyond.

There is no downside to learning a musical instrument. Students learn confidence, have fun, awaken creative thinking, strengthen teamwork skills, and open a window to a lifetime of music making and appreciation. The benefits of sustained instrumental training on brain development have also been recently and thoroughly studied. New findings show that playing an instrument helps students’ brains precisely distinguish differences in language sounds, leading to improved comprehension, reading and writing (Longitudinal Effects of Group Music Instruction on Literacy Skills in Low-Income Children, N. Kraus, et al.). Other brain benefits include improved pattern recognition and spatial reasoning, strengthening math performance. Who knew that the best thing we could do for our brains was to play music!

We serve local Title I schools, where a majority of families fall below the federal poverty level because students in these schools fall into the “achievement gap.” Research finds that generally low-income and English language learning students are continuing to fall behind and stay behind. In addition, LAUSD’s recent “Arts Equity Index” shows that our low-income schools are vastly underserved in the arts, which are mandated as core subjects in California. High quality arts programs like Meet the Music help to close the achievement gap by keeping kids engaged in school, and strengthening the “4 C’s” necessary for 21st Century learners: communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

The expansion of Recorders in Schools is supported in part by a new grant from the California Arts Council’s Artists in Schools program, new funding procured by some partner schools, and Meet the Music’s other generous funders. But we have not yet met our funding goal, and continue to purchase recorders, workbooks and supplies, as well as support the wonderful teaching artists who lead this program. You could make a meaningful difference in closing this funding gap. Start the New Year off right by giving kids a boost for life and make a donation to Recorders in Schools today!


Article Posted: 1/7/2016