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Can barbershoppers help fill the holes in public school music programs?

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Music Specialist James Estes sent this around to the staff this morning. Would you take a look at these kids’ faces? How can anyone watch this and believe that music is anything less than an essential investment in making better students and better people?

We have a number of chapters who are doing an AWESOME job helping fill what would otherwise be a gaping hole in the lives of children. For example, here’s what barbershoppers in British Columbia are doing:



Volunteers help students sing out

By Katie Robinson – Chilliwack Progress

December 10, 2008Before letting out a single note, Breanna Kerr pushes out her chest, angles up her chin and smiles.
Her feet tap the floor, and even her hands, at one point, clap to the beat.
She doesn’t need the words; she knows these songs by heart.
“I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live-long day,” the Grade 6 student shout-sings.
“I’ve been working on the railroad, just to pass the time away.
“Don’t you hear the whistle blowing …”
She tucks away her lips, draws back her tongue and blows out a perfect wolf whistle before moving on to the next lines.
“… Don’t you hear the captain shouting? Dinah, blow your horn!”
The old-time I’ve Been Working on the Railroad folk song used to be a staple in all schools, but nowadays, not so.
“Kids today, they don’t know these songs,” says Judy McAlpine, a 37-year veteran of the Sweet Adelines.
McAlpine, along with Barbershop singers Bernie Hops and Tony Bestebroer are working to change that.
Every Monday the trio gathers in the multipurpose room at Central elementary and waits.
“Here comes our singers,” says Hops, a big smile on his face.
Little kids and big kids, girls and boys crowd into the room. They grab sheets of music and circle around their singing elders.
“Should we start with O Canada?” Hops asks.
They cheer in response.
For a half hour these kids sing classics like Home on the Range, This Land is Your Land, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
They bob their heads, sway their hips, stomp their feet – they even pound their fists in the air to “root, root, root for the home team,” and count with their fingers to show “it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.”
Central elementary doesn’t have a music teacher on staff. Before the singing trio started its once-a-week music sessions last year, students were exposed to very limited amounts of music in their classrooms.
Hops wanted to change that.
He had heard of a program being conducted in the United States, where community members would go into the classroom and just let the children sing.
That’s exactly what Hops and his crew does.
“We don’t teach them how to sing, we just get them to sing,” says Hops. “It’s so great to just listen to these kids sing – they love to sing.”
It’s animated all over their little faces. They open their mouths up wide for the ‘O’ in O Canada. They slide their torsos back with imaginary reins in hand to “Whoa back” during She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She Comes. They shout out an emphatic “Hey” at the end of Jingle Bells.
And after each song they clap, clap for each other, clap for their love of music.

Keep it up boys — barbershop harmony and good music in general  is part of the solution to so many problems!

Now for a minute, forget the notion of barbershoppers performing for high school programs — you’ll generally only make inroads with teachers and students when you show them the higher-level quartets, anyway. What about the elementary and junior high kids? We’ve got a lot of retired barbershoppers with time on their hands  and who may have the musical talent and personalities to make a difference. What do you think our chapters and quartets could do to better support their local music programs?