My Residency at Highland Elementary School

I just finished a three-day Artist-in-Residence stint at Highland Elementary School. My activities ranged from an assembly performance/presentation for the whole school to small workshop classes with each grade level to sessions each day with the chorus, orchestra and band. The culmination of the residency was a performance by each of the groups for the entire student body.

I think it was a big success. I had a great time. The kids were really fun to work with, and we had very good sessions. The final concert went well, and there was certainly great improvement day to day in the ensembles.

A few reflections on the week:

1) Teaching elementary school aged children is exhausting work. One simply cannot let up on energy for a moment, or you lose the kids. Keeping children interested is not just about teaching but also about engaging. I got home at the end of each school day absolutely pooped. This is not because the children were in any way badly behaved. Actually, they were remarkably well-behaved . It’s just hard work.

2) Teaching elementary school aged children is equally thrilling and rewarding. The kids were so willing to listen and try new things. They worked hard with me, and showered me with affection, both spoken and unspoken. At the end of the concert, many came up and hugged me, presented me with gifts, and thanked me for being there. Talk about feeling warm and fuzzy...

3) Teachers are the unsung heroes of our society. The dedication, skill, and plain hard work of the teachers I was exposed to was awe-inspiring. The music teachers, in particular, need such a high degree of patience, caring, and ability to teach this many children music on an elementary level. I am ready to collapse after just three days. These teachers do it every day, year in and year out. As a parent of young children, it is a perspective changing experience. I spent a good deal of the time there reflecting on my wonderful teachers growing up and how much I owe them. I point you to an earlier blog.

4) Music needs to be in our schools, and more of it. The teachers related many stories of troubled students who found self-esteem and discipline through music. Music programs enhance the rest of school work. I will not dwell on this, as there are many studies that show the power of arts programs to improve scholastic performance, but I wish more people understood what seems such a no-brainer to me.

I went in to this not knowing what to expect, and somewhat anxious about it. I’m very glad I did it. I could not do this all the time, but I enjoyed the week.

And I will miss the kids.
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