Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Katie Issel Pitre reports on her experience at Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito
I’m happy to report a job well done by all my students and their teachers at Harding Elementary School. We have just finished a huge endeavor–10 classes performing original songs in one evening!!! We pulled it off with the help of amazing PTA support and parent volunteers, help from former students at the theater at El Cerrito High, from Principal Takimoto of Harding Elementary School…and of course from students and teachers!
Through Youth in Arts ‘Arts Unite Us’ program, I was able to work with Harding students for 24 weeks leading up to our big performance. ‘Arts Unite Us’ aims to bring children of all abilities together through shared creative arts experiences.
The first half of the year, we developed our ensemble, learning about music, rhythm, working together, and rhythm notation and instruments. The second half of the year we selected a favorite song, used its melody to create original lyrics, and then went through the editing and revision process to create our own song. For most students this was their first exposure to song writing! We utilized the support of composer Aaron Pike, who created beautiful piano tracks to accompany our original songs. We rehearsed in our classrooms to prepare for our show. Here are two examples of what our in-classroom rehearsals sounded like:
Teacher Helen’s Kindergarten class rehearsal of “Mrs. Wishy Washy”
Mrs. Silkworth’s 3rd Grade class rehearsal of ”America walk with the rest of the world”
After our performance I visited once more for an in-school sharing session, giving students one last chance to see and appreciate each others work. We reflected on our work and created songs that summarized our experience in music class. Here is one of my favorite songs created on our reflection day from Mrs. Tamura’s 2nd Grade class:
I thank Youth In Arts of the opportunity they gave me to grow and develop as an artist and an educator, to work with this special school and make sweet music with these intelligent students A big nod to you all.