Native flute, dancing liven up music classes
- Susan Matheny
- Madras Pioneer - News
Ethos music program expands
Music classes are now available at every elementary school in the 509-J School district through the expansion of the Ethos music program.
Last year, the district partnered with the nonprofit Ethos Program, which provides AmeriCorps volunteers, who are trained musicians, to teach music. The district's cost is $7,550 per Ethos volunteer, a fraction of the cost of a certified music teacher.
The two newest instructors are Blythe Olson and Joe Baumann, who have joined original Ethos instructors Laurel Crafton and Sarah Goff.
Olson began teaching music at Metolius Elementary last October, then moved, literally, to Warm Springs Elementary in February.
"I live in `teachers' row' in Warm Springs," she said of the small houses the district provides for teachers. "I really wanted to live in Warm Springs and be here full-time," she said.
Olson's main instrument is the piano, but she said she is a lifelong musician and dancer, and also trained in Cirque du Soleil-type aerial arts.
Past employment has included working in the Portland area as an instructional assistant, in special education, and at the Boys and Girls Club.
"I want the arts to always be part of my life. It may not always be what I do professionally, but I want to always be a musician and be involved in community development," she said, noting next year she may be enrolling in graduate school.
She has experienced a lot of community support at Warm Springs Elementary. "I love it here, love the community, and the kids are very talented and very musically gifted," Olson said.
Every school day, she instructs kindergarteners through fifth-graders in singing and on playing percussion instruments. "The school has a zillion pitched and unpitched percussion instruments which the students play solo and in groups, and they also play drums.
She said Principal Dawn Smith's vision for the music program was for the children to experience other cultures through music.
"We've been doing a lot of world music -- which is like throwing social studies in -- and singing in other languages," Olson said.
Last week, the Warm Springs Ethos program was taking signups for after-school music lessons in beginning piano, violin and Native flute. The eight-week program costs only $12.
Olson is teaching the piano and violin classes, but said community volunteers will teach the Native flute.
"I'm learning how to play native flute myself, so I'll be there to learn," she admitted.
The flute instructors are Walter Payne, James Greeley and Becky Dudney. The flute class can take eight students and each student will be given a flute to keep. Another person was so enthusiastic about the lessons that she paid the tuition for the students, so the flute lessons are free.
Olson and her students will present a winter concert at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 19, in the Warm Springs Elementary gym.
Singing games, used by Metolius Elementary Ethos instructor Joe Baumann, help keep students' energy contained and focused.
"Focusing on (a game) allows the vocal chords to relax and makes singing easier," Baumann said.
Baumann has a bachelor's degree in music education instrumental/general, and originally wanted to be a band director. He grew up in Duluth, Minn., and did his student teaching in Wisconsin.
A college friend, Bjorn Carlson, was in the Ethos program in Fossil, and told Baumann about it. "You have my dream job," Baumann told him.
After being urged to apply himself, Baumann became an AmeriCorps volunteer with Ethos, and taught in Fossil last year. It was his first visit to Oregon and he said he really enjoyed living in Fossil.
This year, he requested to come to Metolius. "I wanted to come to a larger school, because I do want to be a certified music teacher someday," he said, noting Metolius Elementary has around 300 students. Baumann teaches half-hour classes to kindergarten through fifth-graders, Monday through Friday.
In his classroom last Thursday, third-graders sang the song "Rocky Mountain," while doing a reel-type dance across the room.
To warm up their voices, they sang "Many mumbling mice are making merry music," going higher up the musical scale each time.
Another game taught them the "solfege' hand signals for the "Do-Re-Mi" notes. He said it develops muscle memory to connect the tone with the hand motion.
"Later, I can work that into some sight-reading of music," he said.
This fall he said he's focusing on singing, "to get them to self-lead and be more confident to prepare for concerts."
In the spring, he will do more work with instruments like recorders, bells, xylophones, and the school's collection of percussion instruments.
Metolius Elementary will be presenting a concert for parents the last week of December.
"In college, I played the trombone, but can do a little of all band instruments. I'm playing a lot more guitar and recorder now," Baumann said, adding, "I've also been playing the recorder with a Celtic band in town -- Triur Amadan."