SINGER HELPS START SCHOOL'S MUSIC PROGRAM
Nicole Phan already can read music and tell the difference between
compositions penned during the Renaissance and baroque periods.
The 9-year-old isn't enrolled in private music lessons and the
tiny, diverse Catholic elementary school she attends doesn't provide
a full-time music program. But, the girl ? and scores of other classmates
? are learning everything from singing and songwriting to music
history through a one-of-a-kind after-school tutoring and music
education program created by a local singer and songwriter.
"Anybody can come in anytime,"
Nicole said of the after school program offered three days a week
at St. Pius X Elementary. "We've been learning to read notes
and about different time periods. It helps you learn music and play
the recorder, and it doesn't take away from school."
As tight budgets squeeze music education out of many public and
private schools, the 135-student elementary in northwest Nashville
has found a way to make it a priority.
The school has partnered with the Learning
for Life program - created by
local recording artist Lynn Bryant
- to give students who might not otherwise be exposed much to music
experiences that some parents would pay hundreds, if not thousands,
of dollars to provide.
"There was no music education
in the school at all. I have always had a heart for children, and
I wanted to give back," said Bryant, who funds the program
with proceeds of her debut album Stone's Throw
Away. "I don't want my
life to be all about me. I tell the students as you're reaching
for your dreams, make sure you help someone else along the way."
The Learning for Life program pays
for academic tutors and music teachers to work individually and
in small groups with students after school. Students who sign up
for the program can improve reading and math skills, learn good
character traits and participate in a music program that includes
voice lessons, performance coaching and tips on how to write a song.
Bryant created the charity in 1999 in honor of her late grandmother
and started working with St. Pius X a year ago after learning that
the school didn't have a music program or after-school tutoring.
St. Pius X Principal John Saenz, who has a master's degree in music
and performance, was tapped to lead the music portion. However,
Bryant has repeatedly visited the school to perform songs, work
with students and bring in guest speakers from the music business.
"I teach the class almost like
a college-level seminar where they get music appreciation, music
history and music theory," Saenz said. "We
study everything from medieval Gregorian chants to 20th century
jazz, and they just suck it right up. It's just amazing to watch
the students grow."
Christy Glaser, a first-grade teacher at St. Pius X, also tutors
for the program. She said the ability to extend the school day is
paying dividends for the students who need extra time and help.
review and go over things they are doing in class,"
said Glaser, who also helps teach character education during the
program. "We talk about life skills,
things that will help them in life. It's a self-esteem builder,
and I always tell them they can do whatever they want."
Emily Geist, a third-grader, participates in the after-school tutoring
to sharpen her reading skills. She goes over class assignments,
gets help on homework and reads new books.
we play math and science on the computer," said Emily,
8. "I'm reading a whole lot more.
Last night I finished a book, and I'm on the eighth chapter of another