As a musician, I wear many hats. Currently, one of those hats is after-school music teacher at Mt. Royal School. After our Tuesday staff meeting, I haul my steel-string guitar, various random sheets of music, and a copy of LEVAS over to the stark but spirited music room at Mt. Royal.
I’ve been a substitute teacher with the Carroll County schools for about a year, and I know I’m spoiled by their system. In the elementary schools, all class levels enjoy one hour of “specials” each day, including P.E., music, art, and health. But it sounds like exposure to the arts at Mt. Royal –and at many city public schools -- is sadly infrequent. To help remedy the problem, I applied for a teaching grant from Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which enables me to work with a handful of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders once a week on music, specifically, vocal music.
It has been difficult to decide what to work on in the brief hour that I see the students each week, especially what repertoire to sing. As my inspiration, I’m using Black History Month, the social justice movement that is sweeping the choral world, and Memorial’s dedication to talking about difficult topics. Our repertoire focuses on songs of the civil rights movement. The kids have learned “This Little Light of Mine,” “This Train is Bound for Glory,” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” They’re covering the basics of good vocal technique and reading music. They’re experiencing history through song. As we are searching for a communal repertoire that addresses how we feel in these divisive days, I’m hoping that these songs, through the voices of our children, lead the way to better community dialogue.