UW-W brings world’s music to Sullivan

March 9, 2017 GMT

SULLIVAN — Not every Sullivan Elementary School student can make it to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s celebrated “Sounds and Visions” enrichment program, so the music education student organization brought aspects of the program directly to Sullivan.

The event, titled “Music Around the World,” gave students hands-on exposure to various musical elements. Activities set up in a number of stations all around the school ranged from an active game aimed at helping students distinguish different musical genres to a “musical petting zoo” that let them try out all different types of instruments, from woodwinds to brass to str\ings like the violin.

Principal Nick Skretta said that a parent came up with the recommendation after her family participated in the “Sounds and Visions” program at UW-Whitewater.

Last year, Sullivan Elementary School hosted an artist-in-residence, who worked with students to create a beautiful set of mosaics highlighting the school and community to brighten the school entryway.

Members of the school’s parent-teacher organization, Parents and Teachers Helping Students (PATHS), supported the program last year, and this year, they welcomed bringing an interactive musical experience to the school, Skretta said.

“So we called UW-Whitewater, and they were thrilled to bring their music education group to our school to put this on,” Skretta said.

Clara McGowan, president of the UW-Whitewater Chapter of National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Collegiate, helped coordinate the event.

“We’re all music education majors in training,” McGowan said. “Bringing this program to Sullivan was a great opportunity for us to get out into the school environment and interact directly with students.”

The other UW-Whitewater participants agreed that visiting Sullivan was a really valuable experience. All are preparing for careers in music education, although some are focusing on the high school or middle school level, while others will be working with elementary schoolers in an environment much like this one, UW-Whitewater volunteer Samantha Bequest of Muskego said.

“We’re going to be doing this ourselves someday,” said UW-Whitewater student Austin Kappel of Wausau. “What better way to learn that getting out here and doing it?”

Callie Barbeau of Fond du Lac is a senior at UW-Whitewater this year and will be starting student teaching in the fall.

She served as Sounds and Visions coordinator at UW-Whitewater, and said that the on-site event has been really well received by pupils and their parents.

“We had about 80 kids last year and around 50 this year — it depends on what else is going on in people’s schedules — but we heard really positive things from the people who came,” she said. “Kids just love it. They don’t bring any preconceived notions — they just play.”

“I heard this one little kid say, ‘I wish I could do this every day,’” Barbeau related. “Maybe, someday, they will.”

UW-Whitewater student Nicholas Abler of Eldorado said he doesn’t get to work with little children very much, and he finds the personal interaction very valuable.

“It’s fun. You’re teaching them, but at the same time, they’re teaching you so much about communication,” he said. “You never stop learning.”

The UW-Whitewater music education students arrived at Sullivan Elementary early Friday morning and set up seven different stations all around the school. Students traveled from station to station throughout the school day.

Everyone started out together in a welcome assembly. Then students paired up with UW-Whitewater guides who would lead them around to the different activities.

Each room represented a different area of the world and also a different musical concept to which students were introduced.

One room was decorated like a rainforest, and featured all different types of sounds.

In another room, students got a brief view of music history.

The Rocky Mountains room correlated with a lesson on dynamics.

In “Italy,” students learned about tempo.

In “New York,” they learned about different musical genres and how to distinguish different pieces as belonging to those genres.

In “Antarctica,” students learned about rhythm.

One of the kindergarten rooms, meanwhile, was transformed into an “instrument petting zoo,” in which students could try to make sounds on a variety of instruments lent out for this use by the music education students themselves and UW-Whitewater.

In the “zoo,” students could try out a trombone, French horn, baritone and trumpet from the brass family; a clarinet, flute and alto saxophone from the woodwind family, and a violin, viola and cello from the string family.

Every student got a turn on every instrument, and soon they had developed favorites. Some instruments proved harder than others, and some students turned out to have a very good natural instinct for one instrument or another.

Lillianna Miklos, a second-grader, said she liked the violin best, while first-grader Cade Theisen preferred the cello better due to its big, rich sound.

At the end of the day, all of the students joined for a mini-concert showcasing some of the concepts they had learned.

Hannah Werning, a third-grader, said she knew some of the musical concepts that the UW-Whitewater students were sharing on Friday, but some of what they taught was new to her, and she learned a lot.

“I learned about different periods of music, like baroque and romantic, and when different instruments were developed that made music sound different,” Werning said.

“Some of the composers were new to me,” she said. “Also, I learned a different note today — the sixteenth note.”

Teacher Jenni Filer said that having the UW-Whitewater music education students in-house on Friday was a great enrichment opportunity for the Sullivan students.

“I think it’s giving kids experiences they don’t necessarily have in their lives,” Filer said. “It’s opening their eyes to different areas of music, and to different parts of the world, that they haven’t seen yet. And being able to try the different instruments for themselves — they really respond to that.”