MCNABB — Previously at Putnam County Junior High, only students in the extracurricular activities of band and choir received musical education.
However, this year, the junior high as expanded its curriculum to provide daily musical training to all students through a general music and music appreciation class. The school district now has three full-time music educators.
“I think musical education is important because it cultivates the traits of teamwork and self-discipline while also helping to round out their education,” music teacher Kristin Klypchak said.
As students begin to understand the fundamentals of creating music, one of the first items used to help them put it all together is the use of the classroom’s “boomwhackers.” These hollow, lightweight tubes of varied lengths are color coordinated by musical pitch.
To play a boomwhacker, the only required skill is to strike it against your hand. These provide an inexpensive alternative to instruments such as a xylophone, and they also allow for several students to participate at once while learning to work together as a group.
The class will then expand their new knowledge through the use of the new SmartMusic software program. This interactive training program retains the use of color-coded musical notations and lets them see what they’re playing as they move through the song, as well as identifying their errors.
“I’m also able to assess their practice, and they can use the program to follow along and see their growth as musicians. They also get to hear how their instrument fits in with everyone else in the group as they practice,” Klypchak said.
She said her students have enthusiastically responded to the class and that they are eagerly working toward their first performances. Klypchak said it can be a challenge to address all the ideas she’s been presented, but is thankful for their excitement.
“We could use some more instruments, but we’ve gotten great support from our music boosters.
“They’ll be helping us with our fundraisers, trips, performances and supplies,” Klypchak said.
Musical education has been linked to improved test scores, math and language skills, comprehension, memory, self-esteem, hand-eye coordination, listening skills, problem solving and creativity. While speaking to junior high students, another benefit of the new music class was revealed.
“It helps calm me down for the rest of the day,” seventh-grader Brooklyn Brester said.
She also said she enjoys the opportunities for self-expression the class provides.
Fellow student Traxton Mattingly said he enjoys getting to try a variety of instruments and also mentioned the soothing effects of the new class.
“It calms me down,” he added.
School administrators are well aware of the benefits of bringing music education to all students.
“Music is an important part of a well-rounded education, and I like that we’re exposing kids to it every day. I want them to be able to find something about music that they like, because then they’ll be able to enjoy it for the rest of their life,” Principal Mike Olson said.
Klypchak said a performance is scheduled for Oct. 11 during the music boosters’ spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Putnam County High School. The choir is expected to perform Jan. 17 during a Peoria Rivermen game.
For more information, visit www.pcschools535.org.