"I'm trying to compose a song that has a club music feel," said Jefferson Middle School sixth-grader Braden Higbee while working on GarageBand a composing software during Kim King's music class. "I need to decide what sounds, and how, I put in my song. I started with a piano riff because it's calm but I want to contrast that with dance sounds that get more chaotic. But end with the same piano riff. I like that contrast in feeling. I love that I can express myself through music. It speaks to me."
Braden, who is also a member of the chorus and plays the bass and tuba in the orchestra and band, is just one student who benefits from music at Jefferson, both in the classroom, and in the ensembles. The composing project reinforces students' critical thinking skills and its cause and effect on the music. Many other classroom curriculums is incorporated in music class, for example, using music journals to support ELA skills.
"Music naturally lends itself as a vehicle to reinforce and enhance all of the core subjects," said Mrs. King who is also Jefferson's chorus director. "Music teaches students self-discipline, self-confidence, how to work as a team player and then to go on and use these skills in lifelong applications. Music reading greatly helps students learn to read, (the flow and speed of reading) literary skills, memorization, vocabulary, cognitive, large motor skills, eye-hand coordination, abstract reasoning skills."
Jefferson Middle School trumpet section Luci Ellis, Brianna Ingerson, Shannon McGrath, Lucas Lassinger and Jason Porter practice during band.
Besides music classes, Jefferson Middle School offers chorus, orchestra, Jaguar Band, jazz band and percussion ensemble. Jaguar Band rehearses four times a week and the jazz and percussion ensembles, who are a select group of seventh- and eighth-grade students, once a week. Chorus and orchestra meet one to two times a week. The students work incredibly hard to become better musicians. It is important to have ensembles because they provide students who are accelerated in music another outlet to perform. It teaches them about different genres of music.
"I love music. It just makes me happy," said Jefferson seventh-grader Michael Jones, who plays the trumpet. "It does help me in class because I've learned how to concentrate. Music is important to students because it gives them a way to express how they feel."
The bands, directed by Rebecca Bostford, also incorporate academics into their studies. For example, when they work on rhythms, students spend time adding fractions. Many times students will look at Mrs. Botsford and say, "We are doing this in math class!" realizing the connection to the classroom. Students learned more about Spain and the tradition of bullfighting with one of their spring concert selections, "Espana Cani" ("A Bullfighting March"). Students also incorporated the art of Salvador Dali as part of their performance.
"With so much emphasis on state testing, it is important for everyone in the school to do their part to help the students achieve," said Mrs. Botsford. "Music is another approach to teach the students math and ELA. We use vocabulary that the ELA teacher use to teach our performance music."
"Music helps to create a more well-rounded student," said Mrs. Botsford. "In music, everyone is engaged 100 percent of the time. We teach a performance skill, which helps to build coordination, confidence and self-control. Most students who participate in music learn great time management skills. Music ensemble participation also teaches teamwork - working together for the greater good."
Orchestra Director Pete Lindblom also recently incorporated academics in this ensemble for their spring concert. At the concert, the orchestra played a medieval piece that featured a PowerPoint of a jousting tournament. Students learned about jousting while playing the piece; however, some students performed, in social studies class, excerpts of the piece as part of their medieval project.
"Music provides students a natural connection between subject areas. Since it has been such an integral part of all cultures throughout history, it is easy to teach students the relationships between music and other subject areas," said Mr. Lindblom. "In fact, many other subject areas would not be what they are if it weren't for music."