Organization Helps Keep Music in the Curriculum | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Organization Helps Keep Music in the Curriculum

With constant cuts in education, it's up to teachers and principals to come up with creative ways to keep things like music education in their schools. But they're getting help from at least one local organization. For WBEZ, Erica Hunter has the story.

Dorthea Lattyak is the principal at Melody Elementary school on the West side of Chicago. She's been in education for four decades, and has seen many changes--some good, some bad. When her school got rid of arts education because they couldn't afford a full time teacher, she couldn't accept it.

LATTYAK: I believe it should be a part of everybody's curriculum. It makes them into well-rounded adults. It gives them a background on other people's culture, the rich history of our country and other countries, and the kids enjoy it. And our children, some of them, are just so talented and when you take that away those talents are not used.

Lattyak searched for ways to bring it back and that's where Rock for Kids stepped in. The non profit-organization gives underprivileged kids in 18 different schools throughout Chicago a chance to discover their musical talents.

Rock for Kids offers a variety of free music programs to youth in third through 12th grades. There's choir, percussion, blues workshops and a songwriting and recording class.

The organization's executive director Maria Mowbray says stumbling upon Melody Elementary was kismet. Aside from the obvious connection with the school's name, there was another reason Mowbray felt compelled to help...

MOWBRAY: The neighborhood around Melody is very challenged there's a lot of underprivileged people and there's a lot of poverty in that neighborhood and that school, from the outside, looked very well-maintained. Not affluent but that someone inside really cared about that school, and it was sort of a signal to us and we just sort of thought, “Well, let's just pull over and see.”

Her instinct was right on point, and after explaining that her organization would foot the bill for music classes, they came up with a curriculum for Melody's third and fourth graders.

MOWBRAY: We wanted something that could be performance based but we also wanted to give these younger students who'd never had any music training whatsoever some basic skills as well. They learn a little bit of note reading how to read music a little bit of music theory and also they learn how to differentiate between different genres of music, and that culminates in them choosing some songs that they wanna learn to sing.

Music Clip of the students practicing a song

Every Friday afternoon third and fourth grade students, like 10-year old Devon Osborne, eagerly await music class.

OSBORNE: I like coming to music on Friday. Basically if we don't come to music we got to work all day.

Melinda Alberty is one of two teachers hired by Rock for Kids to teach music classes at Melody. She says music is just another way to engage kids.

ALBERTY: We're also teaching them how to read note names, how to read different rhythms and this also helps them with math just to get their mind thinking in that academic level. It can help them with math, reading, all kinds of things.

Teacher Melissa Grant says it's not only helpful it opens up a whole new world for them.

GRANT: To be able to give them the opportunity to say 'that's a style of music I like' or 'I liked when we sang that song,' that's something they can carry with them and try to cultivate in the future, maybe not until their adults but to just plant that seed is so important.

And planting those musical seeds is what Rock for Kids is all about.

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