Oregon Coast today. (Lincoln City, OR) 2005-current, February 14, 2020, Page 14, Image 14

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It takes a community
For many local families, laying out cash
for an instrument could be a deal breaker. But
thanks to partnerships, the MII program has
been able to purchase increasing numbers of
instruments, which are then available to kids
through an innovative music lending library
located at Taft High.
“For the last five years, the Studio to
School Project, now Music is Instrumental,
has had a partnership for the purchase and
rental of instruments with Tigard Music,” Tell
said. “This has helped keep prices affordable.”
Students choosing music as an elective
in grades 7 -12 can rent instruments such
as flutes, trumpets, clarinets, trombones,
saxophones, French horns, drum kits,
keyboards, and pianos.
Majalise Tolan, Lincoln City School
District secondary teaching and learning
administrator, adds that instruments are
provided at no cost for students needing
assistance. “It is wonderful to see students
thrive musically and academically when all
barriers to access are removed,” she said.
Bringing in the pros
Funding of instructors is another
challenge that has been overcome through
local resources. Again, generous financial
support has allowed MII to retain retired
professional musicians (“expert technicians”)
to mentor and teach students. This includes a
grant from the Oregon Arts Commission to
fund stipends for these professionals to work
with students.
“The professional training and experience
of our expert technicians is unparalleled for a
small rural community,” Tell said. “They work
with beginning musicians on holding the
instrument and producing sound. They also
instruct small groups of students in sectionals
like percussion, coach soloists before an
upcoming performance, and help assess
students’ proficiency throughout the year.”
“Our north area music teachers work
collaboratively to align instruction, providing
students with a clearly defined roadmap
for building their music skills,” said Taft
Elementary Principal Becca Bostwick. “One
of the greatest indicators of success has been
seeing the numbers of students who continue
to participate in the middle school band at
Taft 7-12.”
Mike Freel, director of Taft 7-12
Music, says he does his best to bring guest
conductors in to work with his bands and
choirs each year. He ticks off a list of visiting
artists that have come to work with students,
which includes trumpet player Dr. Keith
Karns, a professor of jazz studies at Western
Oregon University; Steve Peter, who has
served as director of the acclaimed Pacific
The Taft High drumline debuts at the July 4th parade in Gleneden Beach
Concert Choir at Forest Grove’s Pacific
University; composer Forrest Fisher, former
music director for the Lake Oswego School
District; and recent Taft graduate Mary
Greenwood, currently a community college
student, who serves as an apprentice expert
technician, teaching beginning brass.
Other music luminaries recruited to
participate include Professor Emeritus of
Music Dr. Sandy Schaefer from Nebraska’s
Chadron State College, who specializes in
percussion and performs locally; pianist and
music instructor Andrea Roesel, who studied
at the Berklee College of Music; and retired
high school band director Fred Schmale, who
also performs with the Lincoln Pops, and
provides instruction in trombone for grades
six through 12.
Game changer
The value of music education, in and
of itself, would be hard to overstate. But it
appears to come with added bonuses.
Taft 7-12 Principal Nick Lupo has
watched the evolution of the Studio to
School/MII program and its effects on
kids over the past five years. “At the end
of the first year of having music in 2015,
assessment data revealed that reading and
mathematics scores tended to be higher for
the 65 students who chose sixth-grade band,”
Lupo said. “Knowing that all students could
benefit, we required that the next year all 122
students take band in sixth grade. It was an
easy decision to make in order to benefit all
students.”
Oceanlake Principal Sandy Mummey
notes a similar impact on students in
kindergarten through second grade.
“Research shows that students who are
exposed to music have increased attendance
and do better on academic assessments,”
Mummey said. “This year we have an
increase in our regular attendance rate, and
students are demonstrating increased reading
proficiency on district assessments.”
Freel observes that out of the student
body as a whole, many of the highest-scoring
students are in band, choir or both. “This is
a true testament to the ability of music to
increase brain power and intelligence,” Freel
said. “Besides,” he adds, “band and choir are
where all the fun happens.”
Putting it all together
The chance to perform is sure to be a
definite perk for many students. Performance
opportunities, scheduled throughout the year,
include two for elementary schoolers, and
three concerts for high school students in
band and choir.
Karin Teisl, who teaches music at Taft
Elementary, says the inclusion of choir in the
sixth-grade music requirement in addition
to band, expands the types of music students
might perform.
Even the youngest kids get a chance to
perform what they’ve learned. Oceanlake
music teacher Gwen Lahti, who works
with K-2 students, notes, “We introduce
our students in grades K-2 to concepts such
as beat, rhythm, tempo, and pitch through
games, movement, collaborative activities,
singing, and playing instruments.”
Competitions also figure prominently
during the year. “For the past two years all
three high school ensembles: Symphonic
Band, HS Choir and Jazz Band have all
qualified and competed at the state level for
music,” Freel said.
The bottom line
But, aside from improvements in math,
reading and attendance, what really counts
is how the kids themselves feel about music
education.
Taft High School 10th-grader Sam
Cortez, is one student whose future is likely
to involve sticks, skins and maybe a set of
cymbals. He says that’s because playing in
band, starting in sixth grade, has had a huge
impact on his life.
“I have many friends in band,” Cortez
said, “and we support and encourage each
other. It’s also been an escape, and relieves
stress for me.”
Cortez said he enjoys the community
feedback he and his band mates get when
the Pep Band plays at football games. He
adds that he’s also a proud member of the
school’s award-winning Jazz Band, and the
recently formed Taft Tigers Drum Line,
which marched in last year’s local Fourth of
July parade.
But perhaps most telling, Cortez reports,
“In the future, I want to continue drumming
and get a scholarship to play in college.”
Thanks to the help of a forward-thinking
program, Cortez has a good shot at realizing
that dream.
Music is often described as a language
that can be understood by all. If the people
behind Music is Instrumental have their
way, the students of Lincoln City will speak
it fluently by the time they graduate. And in
these divisive times, that seems like a pretty
sound strategy.
For more information, go to
musicisinstrumental.net or call
541-669-1868.
oregoncoastTODAY.com • facebook.com/oregoncoasttoday • February 14, 2020 • 15