Music students teach power of culture to community children

elementary students sitting in circle

Music students teach power of culture to community children

Date: Friday, December 9, 2016 - 3:45pm

Every Friday Music majors from Western work with children at Gunnison Arts Center to teach them about different music cultures from around the world.

In October 2016, two students in Western’s Music major designed a program to introduce music to children in the community.

“In August 2015, we started a small pilot program through the Immigrants Union in town focusing on music fundamentals. With a positive response from the community, Erin and I were able to further develop the program and take it in a new direction,” said Sarah Keith, a senior double majoring in Music and Biology with an emphasis in Ecology. Her partner, Erin Beard, is a senior majoring in Music Education.

Beard, Keith and Dr. Michael Flynn worked together to write a grant to gain funds to supply instruments to the program. Once a week three students in the music major take different instruments over to the art center for the lesson.

“Overall this is entirely student run and organized! I provide support in a few minor areas. This was the idea of Sarah and Erin, they asked for my support in writing a grant to help fund new equipment to be used in the lessons,” Flynn said.

Each week the students gather to write a lesson plan for that Friday. The students’ main source of lesson material is the Smithsonian Folkways program, which offers age appropriate lesson outlines and corresponding activities including learning instruments as well as dances.

“I enjoy this program because it directly relates to my major, Music Education. I gain more experience and it allows me to be involved in the community,” said Anna Flynn, a freshman double majoring in Music Education and Business Administration.

This event was first advertised to the faculty at Western, and class attendance grew as the word got out. The class is offered for free to the community and is open for children ages 3 to12 years old.

“My favorite part (about this program) is seeing the kids get excited about learning and being willing to try things they’ve never done before. Seeing the joy they get from these experiences is the whole reason that I wanted to be involved in the program,” said Erin Beard, a senior majoring in Music Education.

Of the seven Western students who participate in teaching this class, five are freshman. This program will be carried on for many years with student leaders involved in the community.

“I am incredibly proud of the students who are involved and they should be thrilled with the difference they make in their students’ musical lives,” said Flynn.

Story by Grace Flynn

Photos by Erin Beard