The music notes B, A and G were repeated over and over in the classroom Tuesday morning as students at Kalmiopsis Elementary School recited, sang and played the first three notes of “Hot Cross Buns.”
The students were participating in “classroom music” with John Webster, a retired music teacher.
Webster volunteers in the fourth-grade classrooms from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday. And, thanks to the Stagelights Musical Arts Community nonprofit organization, he is teaching the students how to play the recorder.
“Music is a discipline that is really unique for kids ... because, all at the same time, you’re using different parts of the brain,” Webster said. “It’s cognitive. It’s affective. It’s motor skills. It’s all those things. That’s why it’s valuable to these kids and to kids of all ages to be doing this kind of thing.”
The classroom instruction is sponsored by Stagelights as part of its efforts to bring music into the schools after the Kalmiopsis’ music program was canceled last year due to budget cuts.
“We’re happy to be able to provide some basic music education in the schools, especially since the music program was cancelled,” Stagelights Board Chair Scott Graves said. “This is the first of several music-oriented programs we’d like to implement in the school.”
During Tuesday’s class, Webster, who is also a Stagelights boardmember, discussed note names, note values, the difference between notes in the staff and on the staff, fingering and rhythms.
He is teaching students music literacy or how to read music, how to play with a steady beat and other elements of music through application and active participation.
The class will prepare students for a band or string program, Webster said.
“Its all kind of applied musicianship,” he said. “And of course, along the way we have fun, we have a good time with it.”
Students Kaylee Cover and Jared Bowers both enjoyed playing music Tuesday.
“I liked that there’s no squeaking and that nobody interrupted, really,” Cover said. “My favorite part was probably playing the songs.”
“I liked the part when he let us play the notes and he let us name the notes, also,” Bowers said. “I really like naming the notes.”
Webster chose recorder because it’s a good instrument to start on: it’s melodic, and it teaches students how they need to move their bodies to relate to the instrument to produce a sound, he said.
“Over the years it’s been shown to be a good instrument for kids to start on,” Webster said.
Webster’s goals are to develop creativity by having students compose their own songs, to teach them basic music skills (how to read music and vocabulary) and to help them connect with “a very important art form.”
Before moving to Brookings, Webster taught music at the secondary and elementary levels for 31 years in Fresno, Calif.
He was also a professional horn player; he played with the Fresno Philharmonic for 28 years.
Webster decided to volunteer in the classroom because he has the time and the resources to do it.
“I just felt like it was something important,” he said. “I really believe that music is something that is imperative in kids lives.”