Creativity of local music educators keeps kids learning; let’s keep supporting our schools
When we are thinking about supporting the school levies in North Central Washington in the special election that concludes Feb. 9, let us remember the amazing teachers who have been working their tails off finding ways to reach kids and encouraging them to keep learning.
Teaching remotely or in a hybrid model has challenged teachers tremendously and they are rising to that opportunity to shine.
The latest effort that has given me goosebumps of admiration is an effort by all three Wenatchee Middle School music teachers to combine efforts on a virtual student performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters.
Orchard Middle School teacher Jeff Sandberg, Jr. is spearheading the effort because of his technical expertise. The school district made it possible for him to have the tools to put together virtual performances. Every student receives a youtube video with instructions on how to record their voices by listening to a recording of their part (soprano, alto, tenor or bass) and singing along while recording themselves for the performance.
The effect is quite remarkable, as Sandberg showed when members of his choir participated in a virtual performance of “Light the Candles All Around the World.” Here’s a link to that performance: https://youtu.be/BHG4MbD58BQ. I found myself getting emotional watching these kids making music and performing virtually.
“So much is going on in those kids’ minds,” Sandberg marveled as he talked about the challenges of teaching and learning the pandemic. He paraphrased the mantra of Wenatchee School District Superintendent Dr. Paul Gordon when he said “we’ve really had to reimagine what we do without changing the quality and integrity of what we’ve tried to build here in Wenatchee.”
An accomplished musician who plays a variety of instruments, Sandberg has been watching a growing trend internationally of bringing together musicians from different cities or countries for virtual performances.
The school district made sure he had the tools to pull off such an effort, for which he is deeply appreciative.
For this combined choir effort, he’s working with Angela Richmond at Foothills Middle School and Melanie Nees at Pioneer Middle School.
For the Bridge Over Troubled Water performance, Sandberg records each of the parts, using a voice transformer to switch his voice from male to female. This is a tool that he uses every single day, Sandberg told me.
The kids record their performance while singing along to the correct part on a separate device. While it’s not the same as performing in a traditional choir, it does create an opportunity to be part of a larger effort.
Sandberg, who taught at Clovis Point Middle School for nine years and has been at Orchard Middle School for the past five years, remains as enthusiastic and committed as ever to performing and teaching music. He discovered his passion for music in the sixth grade and knew that was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Angela Richmond sent along this link to the Foothills Middle School virtual band and choir concert from December: https://youtu.be/E37IA0LAbfM
While it hasn’t been easy during the pandemic, especially when no in-person classes were happening, Sandberg said he has seen teachers throughout the district doing whatever it takes to meet kids where they are — learning tools to connect online, figuring out the best way to guide students and learning new skills from each other. There is a camaraderie between teachers that he has found inspiring.
Here are the school levies in North Central Washington: Wenatrchee, Cascade, Chelan, Manson, Ephrata and Orondo. Let’s support our teachers and students by voting “yes” on these measures.
Here’s final thought about the value of music in our schools. Neuroscience studies are showing that we would be far better off teaching our kids music as a way of enhancing their learning rather than teaching them to write code. Here’s a link to the article for those who want to follow up: https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/want-smarter-kids-teach-music-not-coding-according-to-mit.html