‘Music education is alive and well!’

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Longtime, and much-loved, music educator Tim Clemmons (Courtesy of East Elementary School)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Everyone knows students’ courses of study have been drastically impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some wonder and some forget about the electives- things like fine arts. The Tribune spoke with longtime Cullman City Schools educator Tim Clemmons, who teaches music at both East and West Elementary Schools and is the director of the sixth-grade chorus, the “Star Singers.”

“My sixth-grade chorus was impacted significantly,” said Clemmons. “The week before getting out for the school year we were to perform at the Alabama State Choral Assessment in Florence. It was canceled, and the students were heartbroken. They had worked so hard and looked forward to sight reading and performing their two songs before adjudicators. I am sure they would have done well. We were also preparing for an end-of-the-year spring concert at the two elementary schools.”

He continued, “The sixth-grade general music classes were to start our last unit using Orff instruments (e.g. xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiels). The piece is always challenging, but very rewarding once it all comes together. There is no way to teach this online. The fourth graders are learning to read music with recorders. I would have loved to give them their recorders so that they could practice. I do have a wonderful online resource for them to continue learning, but they would still need my guidance. The second and third grades were going to sing many songs. I will try to incorporate some of the music into the lesson plans next year.”

Clemmons talked about his online curriculum.

“After spring break, my lessons were made available on the East and West Elementary websites. The students are encouraged to continue further study in some of the areas we did not finish in class. The lessons are geared to encourage further exploration and interest in music over a varied curriculum. For example, second graders are learning about instruments of the orchestra, third graders are learning about Beethoven, fifth graders are learning about different genres of music, and so forth. Students will find educational websites, video clips, and movies that reinforce and/or supplement what we would have learned in the classroom.”

Clemmons said he doesn’t see this move to online learning as something that will have long-lasting negative effects on his students.

“Even though our students have missed a great deal of music education instruction, our students will be fine,” he said. “Through my 38 years in education, I have learned that if you are going to be a successful teacher you have to be flexible. We are bending, but we are also adapting. This is not an insurmountable problem. Music education is alive and well!”

Clemmons said there are many areas where music education is so vital in a child’s life, expounding:

“One: We sing songs in different languages from many cultures all over the world. This helps them to have an appreciation for diversity. We can all work together as a global society if we understand one another better; two: Memory skills are enhanced through singing and/or playing music. Music notation must be memorized and followed at precise times in a performance. Lyrics of songs must also be sung from memory; three: Comprehension is also necessary for performing music. All the lyrics, notes, and music symbols must be understood so that a proper interpretation can be rendered; four: Teamwork is key when making music together. Singers and instrumentalists can only be successful in ensembles when everyone is working toward a common goal. It is so rewarding for the students, and the music teacher, when after long rehearsals the music is finally mastered. The sense of accomplishment builds confidence; five: Music being one of the fine arts is not only cerebral, but aesthetic. Music can help children to feel a wide range of emotion. Children love singing songs that make them laugh, but they also need songs that are reflective. Music is not only to be learned, but ultimately has to be felt. Musicians learn to listen to others, sense emotion, and react with greater depth and understanding; and six: One of the most useful benefits of music education is the increased ability to process situations and find solutions mentally. Those with musical training have been found to have higher levels of grey matter volume in their brains, which are directly tied to auditory processing and comprehension.”

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Maggie Darnell

maggie@cullmantribune.com