In less than a month, a group of fourth and fifth grade singing canaries from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, will be singing the national anthem for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins game.
WALLENPAUPACK – In less than a month, a group of fourth and fifth grade singing canaries from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, will be singing the national anthem for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins game.
The public performances began several years ago, explained music teacher Jean Shields, when a parent wanted the students to sing publicly in Tobyhanna. After that, the public shows continued, as students would later sing at the French Manor and most recently at the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City. Now that hockey is taken care of, the students will have their first baseball performance in June.
As a way to highlight music in schools, the National Association for Music Education has branded March as, “music in our school's month,” where schools feature students' performances. At some point in the coming month, the fourth and fifth grade students will Skype with children in Kenya. This experience will be different, Shields said, because it is a “sacrifice,” as the students have to be at the school at 6:45 a.m.
With the age of the students, Shields commended the support from the parents as they transport them to the various locations.
Practice for the performances start at the beginning of the year, she said because she has to work around the students' academics. Each grade's own concert follows a theme, and next year Shields is looking to have a Halloween concert, where the third grade students will wear their costumes. Every November, the fifth grade presents a concert to veterans on Veterans Day which Shields said is, “wonderful” because the American Legion visits the school and the students present the colors to the veterans.
As part of the students' performances, sometimes instruments like the recorder, xylophone, tambourine and morocco are incorporated. To spice up their performances, some of the concerts will include some skits. During a show last year, school Principal Mark Kirsten acted as Elvis. That, Shields said was “cute.” As part of the second grade holiday concert, some of the students dress as Christmas trees and others are elves.
With the help from Kirsten and teachers, Shields said everything works because she enjoys being creative and with the help from others, it allows her to offer more to the students.
By having public performances, Shields said the students are more excited about music and in fact, some students have joined the chorus just so they can sing at the games. To maintain the students' interest, Shields said she incorporates music the students may like from artists like Bon Jovi.
Aside from looking at well known performers, Shields works with local musicians, like Mark Weber who is a “fantastic drummer,” she said. Another local artist, Doug Smith has played his string bass for the students and a saxophone player in the high school, Chris Lewis visited the school last year and improvised some of the music the students were working on.
After meeting someone from the Philharmonic, Shields arranged a free performance for her students. Any opportunity she has, Shields said she will jump at, as it is an chance to expose children to music. With the Philharmonic's performance, Shield expected a few musicians. But, the entire percussion section ended up performing for the students.
Rather than standing still and simply singing, at a recent practice, the students sang “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” where one student played the kazoo while her classmates marched with the beat of the song.
Looking to the modern ages, Shields said she likes to incorporate technology into her lessons. She explained that she uses YouTube to present different musical performances to the students, such as orchestra and pieces by a Russian composer.
Technology is great, she said, because it makes education exciting. Although chorus hasn't changed much over the years, Shields said the technology is important today because teachers must be creative and be with the times.
A fourth grade student, Taylor Pickering said she chose to be in chorus because, “if music wasn't invented,” she “wouldn't be alive.” She explained that music is her passion and whenever she hears it, she wants to perform. No matter the genre, Pickering said she loves music because, “it has something that talks to me.”
With the chorus's upcoming performances at the hockey game, Pickering said she is not nervous. In part, because she has performed publicly before. Singing the national anthem, she said is, “awesome.” The best part of chorus, will be singing with her friends.
Every student in chorus, chose to sacrifice their recess for the day. Natale Meredick said she decided to join chorus because her sister was in it and thought it was, “really fun.” Although she gave up her recess, Meredick said it was worth it because she gets to be on stage.
Scarlet Schratt said she is excited about Skyping with the students in Africa because they, “are on a different continent.” One student said they were excited for the hockey game because they will be singing on ice.
A fourth grader, Ashley Jones it is, “really awesome,” that the students will sing the national anthem at the hockey game. In part, she said because Shields works hard to give the students such opportunities.
As for Marissa Borer, she said chorus is great because as a shy person, through singing she is able to express herself which is, “awesome.”
The singing, moving and clapping that students are able to do through music is important Shields said, because an essential element for education is exposure and experience.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story replaces and corrects an earlier version that misidentified the Penguins hockey team.