Early on the morning of May 13, 2015, before the sky had begun to lighten with the impending dawn, three artists from Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts packed their car with a variety of musical instruments for a trip across the high plains. The percussionist wanted to bring his entire collection of drums but his fellow musicians nixed that idea and hustled him into the car. They had many miles to go before they reached Burlington Elementary School.
At 8:00 the musicians arrived at Burlington Elementary and began setting up their music stations. Lead teacher Mei-Mey Segura set up the brass and woodwind station, Laura Eakman set out the stringed instruments, and Zane Copec arranged the percussion instruments. Promptly at 8:20 the first group of excited students, the fourth-graders, entered the gym and sat on the floor in front of the musicians. The program began with two numbers from the musicians, Ms. Segura on violin, Ms. Eakman on viola and Mr. Copec on the Cajon. The children sat in rapt attention, and clapped enthusiastically at the end. Ms. Segura then spoke for a few minutes about musical “families” and broke the kids up into three smaller groups to visit the percussion, strings and woods stations.
The eager students spent the next 30 minutes touching, strumming, blowing, and tapping on violins, saxophones, trumpets, snare drums, ukulele, clarinets, cajon, guitars and many more. As the end of the session approached, the musicians brought the group back together. They reiterated the concepts they had introduced and then played two more orchestral pieces. They spent the remaining minutes answering enthusiastic questions. The children were engaged and appreciative. This workshop was then repeated four more times for grades K-3. Each time the musicians introduced a concept appropriate to the grade level, as well as talking to them about being a good audience member.
A majority of these students had never had the opportunity to see, hear, and touch any of these instruments. Some of them had never seen a live musical performance. The combination of geographic distance and economic instability often limit the children of our community the opportunity to experience the arts in a meaningful way. The professional attitude of the musicians as well as their ability to adapt their message to each age group made the experience overwhelmingly positive. Attention from the elementary school staff helped the hands-on portion to move smoothly and allowed the participation of our special needs population.
The goal of the program was to allow the students to widen their knowledge of music, musicians, and performance while also addressing state standards in musical concepts, rhythm and movement, participation and audience behaviors. The program met its goals and could be replicated with ease by other schools.
The Meet the Instrument program was a huge success at Burlington Elementary School. The long-term benefit was evidenced at the end of the 4th grade session. The music teacher asked the group if they were excited about the things they had learned, every hand went shooting up into the air! Coincidentally, the class was scheduled that afternoon to travel to the middle school for their 5th grade orientation. A part of that trip involved picking their instrument for the 5th grade band. The middle school music teacher remarked, “I have never had a class so eager to sign up for their instruments! What have you been doing over there?”
The good reviews keep pouring in. A 3rd grade teacher reported, “One of my student’s parents bought him a violin and lessons because of the program.” The music teacher also reported an uptick in the number of children signing up for piano lessons.