The voices emerging from the Julia Randall Elementary (JRE) school library rise and fall with the sweetness of youth.
“Come on give me more!” directs Juli Davies, JRE music teacher, hands waving with intensity.
The children respond by belting out the “Jingle Bells” chorus with more volume and emotion.
Twice a week Davies teaches singing to students at JRE. Because the district has clustered all third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students into one school, administrators support two days of music a week — and Davies is thrilled.
“We have 50 children in chorus and 50 in band. We (the music teachers) came up with a plan to have students choose band, chorus or study hall. The teachers bought into it,” said Davies.
Teachers give up the time spent on core subject instruction because they recognize the benefit of fine arts in education.
While other school districts across the nation have removed music from the curriculum to cut budgets, the Payson Unified School District leans heavily on Credit for Kids to fund chorus, band and drama.
“Credit for Kids money helps me to buy music,” said Davies.
Teaching art, such as music, inspires creativity and innovation. Both skills our children need to compete in a changing world.
At the 2010 Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable at Sundance, the topic focused on “The role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength.” Co-founded by Robert Redford as part of his Sundance Institute, each year the Roundtable brings together a diverse group of
people dedicated to advancing the arts in America.
The Roundtable report quoted a 2006 survey of employers who agreed, “critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and creativity/innovation will surpass basic knowledge such as reading comprehension, mathematics, science, and history/geography ...”
The Roundtable found that researchers in Korea used musical ability tests to show the connection between musical skill and increased math performance. In Australia, researchers showed a relationship between an arts education and better academic performance. And in Singapore, analysts discovered improved verbal language skills in long-term drama participants.
The elementary students in Davies’ chorus class do not know about this research, they just like to sing.
“I like to sing. My dad has a band in Texas. He plays guitar and sings with my cousin,” said Taylor Brade, a fifth-grader from Mr. Gorry’s class.
Taylor’s eyes shine as she talks about singing. During practice, she had a solo.
Jonathon Wiechmann’s father plays guitar in a local band, “The John Scott Band.” He chose to sing because the band does not offer guitar as an instrument to learn. Jonathon is also in fifth grade and comes from Mr. Gorry’s class.
Cameron Bigelow, a fifth-grader from Mr. Creighton’s class enjoys all kinds of music and performing.
Davies has three performances planned for the JRE chorus this holiday season. The first had all three grades present to a standing room only audience on Dec. 1 in the high school auditorium. The program included new and traditional holiday songs. Crowd favorites included “Rock and Roll Snowman” with two students dressed as snowmen entering the stage rocking out on inflatable guitars. Another was a song about getting socks for Christmas performed by the fifth-grade chorus using socks as props.
Asked about how they felt about the performance, Taylor and Jonathon said, “I had butterflies.”
“I didn’t. I’ve been on stage many times,” said Cameron.
Davies felt proud of the students’ performance on Dec. 1 telling the chorus, “You did an amazing job at the concert. Your teachers said you were great back stage.”
The Presbyterian church has requested a performance by the JRE choir on Monday, Dec. 12.
The final performance will be on Monday, Dec. 19 for the residents at Payson Care Center.
The JRE chorus will have a spring concert, but the date has not yet been set.