Sixth graders march to new education beat

by Jim Boyle

It appears the Elk River Area School District’s decision to replace study with music classes for sixth-grade students is creating the desired effect.

A pair of music teachers and Mary Alberts, a curriculum specialist for the school district, came forward to say kids were enjoying the opportunity to learn about music — and do music.

Music teacher Phil DeRosier led school board members and administrators through a lesson. Photo by Jim Boyle.

They presented videos of student performances and teachers Keri Sollitt and Phil DeRosier relayed what their students are saying about the new requirement.

In addition to band and choir, the district is now offering a basic music exploration class as part of a staged multi-year effort to rebuild the district’s music program that has fallen on hard times.

Music exploration is just as it sounds. It’s not a performance class, but students are getting a taste of performing with hands-on experiences with boomwhackers, keyboards, shred necks (a short guitar-like instrument) and Garage Band on iPads.

“Some are surprised at the talent they have,” DeRosier said.

Four of DeRosier’s students came back from winter break saying they got guitars for Christmas. Others talk about how they practice at home. And after filming a video for the Elk River Area School Board, students were seen in classrooms giving high fives.

Of DeRosier’s 26 students, 25 said the class has been a positive experience.

“They’re very appreciative of the class,” said DeRosier, who led the School Board through a mini instruction session with the boomwhackers and shred necks.  It wasn’t long and they were putting together decipherable tunes.

School board members invited the teachers to a future board meeting —one that will be televised and one that students could be there for some show and tell.