Fifth graders to try instruments at Petting Zoo

While part of my job with the Rockford Public Schools includes helping promote music and the fine arts, I was never in band or played a musical instrument. Naturally, in helping plan the district’s Instrument Petting Zoo last year, I didn’t think I’d be much help. I was so wrong.

The Instrument Petting Zoo is a field trip our district fifth graders take to Riverfront Museum Park. There, they are introduced to most of the band and orchestra instruments offered at the middle school level. It’s essentially a recruiting tool for our middle school music departments. For many of the students, it’s their first opportunity to hold or play any kind of instrument. It has been a tremendous success.

petting zoo Jan. 2014This is its third year. For the first time, we’ve split it into two weeks instead of one. It starts with sessions next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 9-11. It then resumes the first week we return from our winter break, Jan. 6-8.

Phantom Regiment, Guzzardo Music and Tom Asher (who plays viola with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra) have been incredibly generous donating the instruments and materials needed for the event. Our biggest problem is having enough volunteers to introduce the instruments to 100 fifth graders, all at once, in one room.

Which brings me back to my involvement. We were short on volunteers last year and, despite my lack of experience, I helped show the students how to correctly hold and try the trombones and clarinets. The experience was incredible, and the look on some of the kids’ faces when they first produce a sound is priceless. I left with a huge sense of pride that I might have helped even one student create that first spark of interest in music.

You don’t have to be an expert to help with this event. Anyone with a love for our students and music can volunteer. Again this year, we need volunteers!

If you’re interested in helping, please contact me at emily.tropp@rps205.com or 815-966-8960. With the growth in our music departments, and with the success of the Bandwagon 2 initiative with the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, it’s a great time to get involved.

Emily Tropp is a project coordinator with the athletics, fine arts and P.E. departments of the Rockford Public Schools. Contact her at Emily.tropp@rps205.com



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