By Heidi Zemach for SCN-
Music will find a way, despite the lack of a Seward Schools music teacher.
When students arrived at school this fall, they soon discovered that there was no music teacher. The district had been unable to find a music teacher during the summer to replace Katrina Nore, who had resigned after a year in the position. Teaching at three different schools is a difficult task, and Nore was the third music teacher to come and leave over the past four years—
There’s still no choir or regular band program in any of the three Seward schools, but musical opportunities are returning regardless.
At Seward High School, the father of two talented musicians, Suzanna and Moriah, United Methodist pastor Jim Doepken is supervising a half-hour lunchtime jam session on Fridays. The 15 or so jam session attendees–the Music Collective– gave their first public performance to a crowd of admiring parents and teachers at the Resurrect Art Coffee House and Gallery Monday, November 23rd. They showcased their considerable individual talents, performing some solos, small and larger group numbers.
Expect to see this fine group more as the year wears on.
Middle School 6th grade Science teacher Bob Barnwell is offering a guitar exploratory daily at the middle school. About 15 students in that class are learning to play guitar chords and various strums, and are putting together songs for a Holiday performance for their fellow students, and some from the elementary school. They’re learning well, with the help of three volunteer assistants. The students have broken off into smaller groups of their own choosing, and have begun selecting their own favorite music, and have begun to showcase it in impromptu class performances. When they practice informally during lunch, or breaks in their schedule, admiring crowds often gather and join in the singing.
What would have been the band class students at the middle school are being encouraged in doing the same. Twice a week, social studies teacher Myla Liljemark, who plays the fiddle, is supervising that group in independent music playing. It’s been a little raucous, with everyone playing different songs on different band instruments at the same time, she said. But groups are gradually coming together in ensembles and working on songs.
She’s had to turn away several other students who are into Bluegrass music, having been taught and inspired in strings by the yearly summer Seward Bluegrass Camp For Kids weeks. “Mrs. Lil” hopes those students can also be accommodated by the school in the future. They were turned away because they would be drowned out by the louder, and amplified band instruments. Both she and Mr. Barnwell hope to continue with music exploratories in guitar or ukulele in the future.
In the elementary school, without a band, teachers with musical experience are continuing to incorporate music into their general classes when they can. The district has hired Justine Pechuzal to teach “Fine Arts,” in place of a music teacher. Pechuzal has mostly focused on creating art projects, her forte, but she will be incorporating more music and drama into the curricula.
Andy Zamarripa, a member of Blackwater Railroad Company, substitute-taught the middle and elementary music/band classes for the first part of the year. Students say he taught them basic music theory, and showed them a lot about the guitar, and sang with them.
In another exciting development, Seward Arts Council’s Port City Players, with the help of music association members, is putting on Peter Pan, a kid-friendly musical, featuring many youngsters of all ages, as well as older local talent. Auditions for Peter Pan will take place December 15th and 16th, at 7 pm at the Seward United Methodist Church.
The Seward Music Association (Band and Choir Boosters) is also working on bringing in a skilled Glee-style singing coach for a week in the spring to work with Seward students at all levels, and to help teachers learn to integrate music into their classes. The group is also looking into purchasing more guitars and ukuleles, so that there can be entire classes playing them, and so they can be available in both the elementary and middle schools. The association is also hoping to bring some performers to Seward to do a show at the elementary and/or middle school.
SMA will be selling the 47th issue of locally-made music calendars, and taking additional donations at the Seward Holiday Music and Crafts Fair, which will help fund the purchase of musical instruments, school performances and workshops, and summer music workshops.
Meanwhile, students who are not studying music at school, are discovering ways to learn on their own, either privately, through lessons, with local instructors, or online via Skype, or lessons on YouTube. Jim Pfeiffenberger has been facilitating the Snow River String Band, a young bluegrass group. Yours truly (Heidi) will showcase the musical talents of several of her own students at the Holiday Craft Fair, Friday, December 4th, at 5:30 p.m, at the Cruise Ship Terminal.
Note from author: anyone with musical experience, and the ability to teach an instrument, or singing, please make yourself known to the schools, and/or to the community. Even though you may not be a trained music teacher, there are children, even your own kids or grandkids, who would love to learn the basics from you. I have been privileged to have been able to teach stringed instruments to many youngsters over the past few years. They continue to inspire me as they write their own songs, volunteer to perform at their own churches, local groups, and at Seward Mountain Haven, or busk at coffee shops and on front porches, fairs, festivals. There’s nothing as rewarding as sharing one’s own passion with the younger generation, and seeing it reflected back.