All-district choral concert in Champaign not typical

All-district choral concert in Champaign not typical

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign's first-ever all-district elementary school choral concert is scheduled for tonight, but don't expect to see groups of students lined up on risers for the performance.

Instead, students will sing, dance and play, incorporating rounds, canons and partner sounds, which is when students sing two different songs that sound good together.

The concert will feature students of all ages from each of Champaign's elementary schools, as well as from Jefferson Middle School. It's scheduled for 6:15 p.m. today in the gym of Centennial High School, 913 S. Crescent Dr., C.

The all-district concert will demonstrate Education Through Music, which Champaign teachers use to teach their students not only about music, but also social and emotional learning.

"We have implemented this as a part of our curriculum and we have seen huge changes in the demeanor of how our children are able to sing," said Karinsa Moline, the music teacher at South Side Elementary. "Their musicality has just shot up."

Liz Martin, the choral and general music teacher at Jefferson Middle School, said Education Through Music helps students leave behind inattentiveness and aggression, and "free up their brains so they can be in a position for learning."

"They don't even realize that they're doing it," Martin said. "They enjoy it in the process."

She said the songs and games they'll demonstrate at tonight's concert might remind audience members of playground games played 30 or 40 years ago and taken to the next level.

"It creates this very empowering feeling for the children, (that) they can create something gorgeous on their own," Martin said. "It's just going to be this huge celebration of singing and playing that will be a delight for the eyes and the ears."

Moline said as many as 300 students will be performing on the gym floor at the same time during the concert, and the focus on rounds and partner songs prepares them for the idea of harmonizing.

With the program, kindergartners through fifth-graders sing some of the same songs in music class, but with different levels of complexity, Moline said.

"For example, when we play 'Farmer in the Dell,' with kindergartners, we do it in a different way than we would with fifth-graders," Moline said. "It's a completely different level of social interaction. ... It's very sequential and very specific."

Some of those different activities include adding a partner song, singing in rounds, creating "ostinati," which is "repeating melodic and rhythmic patterns that are either part of the song or that complement the song, and which fit with the song to create harmony," Moline said, and learning about the form of the song.

Martin said at the middle school, the program encourages social skills and helps encourage students to focus on each other as individuals, especially by teaching them the importance of each others' names, which they sing.

"It develops a stronger, safer learning community in the classroom," Martin said.

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