By Gus Cross
The Lexington City School Board experienced its largest turnout of the year Wednesday as the public listened to choral and band performances by students at Waddell Elementary and Lylburn Downing Middle schools in celebration of Music in Our Schools Month.
Fifth-graders from Waddell opened up the performance, held in the Waddell gymnasium, singing “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars. Members of the fifth-grade band then played “Bugler’s Dream” by Leo Arnaud, most recognizable as the Olympic fanfare played by networks that carry the Olympic Games.
Lylburn Downing’s jazz band then performed a rendition of “One Flight Down” by Norah Jones and ended the show with “The Final Countdown” by Europe.
“It is an honor to celebrate Music in Our Schools Month in our schools here,” Lexington City Schools Superintendent Scott Jefferies said at the conclusion of the performance.
Music in Our Schools Month, a movement of the National Association for Music Education, has been celebrated in Lexington schools for more than 25 years. The monthlong celebration has become one of the students’ favorite parts of the school year, said music teacher Angie Rader.
“They absolutely love this month,” she said.
Rader has taught music at Waddell Elementary School for 19 years. She said every year there are a variety of events, including all-school sings, concerts, in-class competitions called “name that tune,” and performances by outside artists.
While many schools across the nation have experienced budget cuts in subjects like music, especially after the Great Recession, Rader said she has received huge support from Lexington City Schools, the PTA and families.
“When I first came to Lexington, I was overwhelmed with the resources that I had to teach music,” she said. “I had a pretty good-sized budget, so I was able to go ahead and start, at that time, kind of building a program of what I needed.”
Rader said the PTA stepped in and helped buy some of her larger instruments like xylophones, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Her biggest challenge occurred after the last recession, when she was reduced to part-time for just over a month.
Karen Doyle, the music teacher at Lylburn Downing, said she has received “phenomenal” support from the school system.
“Anytime we need something, it happens,” she said.
Doyle, who has taught at Lylburn Downing for 24 years, said the school system values giving children a rounded education.
“That is one of the reasons that I am still here after all of these years,” she said.
Every year, there is a different theme for the music celebration. This year, it is Disney. Rader said she is looking forward to the Disney all-school sing on March 22.
“They get to dress like their favorite Disney character that day at school,” she said. “So, it is going to be like Halloween but in March.”
Doyle said she uses this month to talk about music careers. In previous years, she has invited alumni who have pursued music careers. They’ve included Allen Blickle, formerly the drummer for the metal group Baroness, and Ben Goldsmith, a songwriter in Nashville.
“It was really cool to watch Ben talk about the songwriting process,” she said. “And those kids ask some interesting questions.”
Doyle also brought the “name that tune” competition to Lylburn Downing after hearing about its success at Waddell. She said it has become so popular it was rumored some teachers started using music-identifying apps.
She said she told teachers: “You have students who know this. Don’t cheat.”
Music in Our Schools Month is more than just competitions and games. Rader said she wants to make music important in her students’ lives.
“I try to offer lots of opportunities for our kids and their parents to come experience music,” she said.
One such opportunity is the piano and strings recital that took place Tuesday night at Waddell. Students and their families gathered in Rader’s classroom to perform music they learned on their own. The songs performed ranged from a piano rendition Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” to “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers on ukulele.
Outside of Music in Our Schools Month, music is a memorable part of students’ education. Goldsmith said music was always his favorite part of school.
“I certainly enjoyed other aspects of school but I loved the music,” he said in a phone interview. “There was this freedom to create.”
Christian Luder, another alumnus of Lexington City Schools, began playing violin in the second grade. He works as a substance abuse counselor in Arizona and said that he still likes to play the violin for mock performances and to “show off or mess around.”
He never became a professional musician but he said he hasn’t forgotten his music teachers.
“Investing in me so much is totally a testament to how passionate they were about music,” he said. “It was really clear they were teaching because they just loved music that much.”
Rockbridge County High School student Madison Carrol recently released her song “I’ll Call His Name” on multiple music platforms including iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. She also went to Waddell and Lylburn Downing, before transferring to Maury River Middle School, and appreciated having music classes.
“Every time we had that class we would sit there and I would try to sing the loudest,” she said.
Carroll credits her success to the dedication her music teachers at all of her schools had for teaching music.
“Without those classes, I just don’t think I would be where I am today,” she said. “[The teachers] would make you keep pushing to make yourself better, they didn’t give up on you.”