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‘Band grandpas’ help instill a love of music in RPS 205

From left, Dr. Arnold Rosen, Dr. Paul Christensen and David Jones volunteer for RPS 205 as "band grandpas."

From left, Dr. Arnold Rosen, Dr. Paul Christensen and David Jones volunteer for RPS 205 as “band grandpas.”

Leave it to two doctors to note the slightest progress in a sixth grade Beginning Band class at Lincoln Middle School.

It was the third week of school, and Dr. Arnold Rosen and Dr. Paul Christensen were helping 35 students in the class. Their job was to check for good playing posture. In order to do that, they had to ignore the squeaks from clarinets and other assorted off-tones coming from 10 types of instruments.

Rosen, a retired gastroenterologist, and Christensen, a retired cardiologist, were not discouraged. “It’s early days here,” Rosen said.

Both men are part of a new volunteer group in the Rockford Public Schools called the Band Grandpas, which was envisioned a year ago when Rosen, Margo Stedman of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Bonnie Spurling of RPS 205 had lunch.

Rosen and Christensen are based at Lincoln. The other five “grandpas” are at East and Auburn high schools and Eisenhower, West and RESA middle schools.

Christensen has the long view when it comes to teaching the students how to play their instruments.  “Everything is a bit of progress,” he said. “You forget that.”

If encouragement and acceptance are the only things both men offer the students, they are OK with that. They see their role as helping students appreciate music and helping them develop a skill they can use long after they stop playing sports.

“Football is not going to last a lifetime, but music does,” Rosen said.

The music was only part of the fun that volunteer David Jones had at West on his first day. In addition to helping music teacher George Espino, Jones talked with students about his civil rights activities and attended two short assemblies about bus discipline. He emailed Spurling, fine arts director at RPS 205, that he had a delightful day.

”Driving past West School several times a week I’ve wondered often what life is like inside those walls,” Jones wrote. “I had a real taste of it today and look forward to more.”

You don’t need to be a grandpa to help in RPS 205 music classes. For more information, email Bonnie Spurling at bonnie.spurling@rps205.com

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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