Yellow school buses were parked in front of Riverfront Museum Park when I arrived yesterday. Fifth grade students from King Elementary piled out. There was a sign on the door that I might have overlooked, but one of the girls screamed when she saw it. “Hey, look! They made a sign for us!”
All week, District 205 fifth grade students have boarded buses to go on an Instrument Petting Zoo field trip. They touched, blew, plucked, and strummed instruments as an interactive promotion for the middle school instrumental music program.
A former Auburn graduate, greeted the students and told them he started playing an instrument when he was their age. He explained about electives and that next year in middles school they choose a few classes, and they will make that decision soon. Some of them, may want to select band or orchestra. He explained if their parents can’t buy an instrument, they can rent one for a dollar a week. “Don’t worry. If you want to play an instrument, it can happen.”
He did not tell them that it would make the dendrites grow in their brain and make them smarter. But this was on the brochure that went home.
He pointed out the instruments and volunteers set up around Kresge Hall. The students were invited to go where they wished. “You will get a chance to try whatever instruments you want. We’ll take turns.”
I expected chaos but I was wrong. The kids were great. They watched as their friends tried, and waited for their turn, and most remembered to say “thank-you”.
Kudos to Fine Arts Director, LuAnn Widergrin who organized it, to the outstanding volunteer musicians who helped and inspired the children, and to District 205 for making good on its commitment to improving the arts program.
Over ten years ago, the District eliminated the seventh period and that decision almost ruined the music program. Most middle schools didn’t offer instrumental music and that impacted the high school band and orchestra. This is a positive and encouraging step toward reviving and rebuilding the music program.
There is more to be done, but for the moment, let’s savor this.