Students show appreciation for good music

Students show appreciation for good musicBody: During the month of April, five musicians came to Downey several times each week, crisscrossing the city to visit some of our most important public buildings, interacting with some of our most important residents. The musicians are from Downey's symphony orchestra, the buildings house the city's elementary schools, and the important residents are our children, kindergartners through fifth graders, the enthusiastic, responsive audiences for the Quintet's Music in the Schools performances. This year's emphasis is on Musical Character, and everyone has a great time with it. At Williams School, Carolyn Osborn's violin depicts the lovely princess Scheherazade, and little faces soften. Mark Artusio's huge bass becomes a lumbering, good-natured elephant. Giggles. A boy's cheeks puff out in imitation of Robert Coomber's mighty blasts on the trombone. Danielle Squyres' irresistible snare drum propels an imaginary marching band, then it's Gershwin on the xylophone, and she tosses in "The Simpson's" theme for fun. "Music has a lot of different personalities," Mark tells the students, "just like you guys. Music is a language and it can talk to you and you can understand it." Before the Quintet's performance at Unsworth, one of the second grade teachers, Mrs. Olson, mentioned to clarinetist Patty Massey that she gives her students a unit and test on Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," so Patty incorporated that into her demonstration of the clarinet's characteristics. Afterward, a student wrote, "Dear Patty, I want to be just like you someday. I like how you played the part of the Cat in Peter and the Wolf. It was like I was hearing the story…Kirsten." Mission accomplished. From Downey's 13 elementary schools and four parochial schools, the response is gratifyingly the same, year after year. Many of the children write a note of thanks, embellished with charming drawings of the musicians, their five instruments, even their music stands, and the Quintet and members of the Symphony Board read every one of those letters. The annual presentations at their schools prepare students for exciting field trips in their third and fifth grades, when they go by bus to the Civic Theatre for concerts played by the entire Downey Symphony. But this year the Symphony Board could not secure funding for the third graders, and that was felt everywhere. "Christy Schroeder teaches kindergarten at Imperial School, and said, "I played flute beginning in third grade. I am so sorry there was no third grade concert this year." Also at Imperial, Barbara Van Dyk noted that there is little class time for music and other arts, though more is expected of students now. "Music education is part of the soul," she added. At Williams, Rubina Toriz "loves that the students get this exposure to music," and that her class remembers the Quintet from last year. Debora Sanders appreciates the intelligence of her third graders and is sorry they had no theater concert this spring. And Mrs. Vincent added, "Tell the Board we really missed you for the third grade concert. I have my kids dress up a little - 'Wear audience attire,' I tell them. It helps us listen better." So the Downey Symphony's Music in the Schools program is an important ingredient in our children's education. Perhaps this was summed up best by Sharon Hudgens, who teaches second grade at Unsworth School. She wrote, "Dearest friends, Thank you for the gift of inspiration. You have brought a treasure to our lives."

********** Published: May 1, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 2