Connecting Young Students to the Benefits of Music

“Hello friends!”

It was 7:30 a.m. on a grey Tuesday morning in November. A little fifth grade girl’s voice split the quiet, which, just a moment before, had pervaded the second floor of Our Lady of the Rosary School. She rushed into the classroom, heralding in a bustle of motion and excitement. Behind her, three fifth grade boys tumbled their way in, finding front row seats for themselves. It was time for band class!

Before long, they were joined by 20 other energetic, chattering students. Luke Grieshop, who teaches music at both Chaminade Julienne and twice a week at OLR, stood before them and hushed the room. Now in his second year of helping to run and develop the music program at OLR, he explained that after weeks of waiting, the students would now be assigned the instruments they would learn to play.

Joining in him were four CJ senior students, Will Marshall, Logan Brodnick, Nick Amstutz, and Connor Kocur, who had arrived earlier in the morning to assist the aspiring musicians in making sure that their instrument was ready to play, or identifying it for repair. The seniors’ mutual passion for music art and their choice of capstone project led them to see how they could assist Greishop in his efforts at OLR.

“The inspiration for this project came from all of the support I’ve received in my personal musical endeavors,” says Marshall. All four CJ students spoke in appreciation and admiration of the music teachers they have had, reminiscing fondly and gratefully on the mentorship they received. Marshall also spoke of his family, and the musical opportunities they shared when he was younger. “My family would attend performances together at the Schuster Center, and I loved them. When I grew up and realized not everyone got that opportunity, I started wondering what I could do about it.”

These CJ seniors are adamant that young students have the chance to experience music and all the benefits working with music offers. They spoke of the intellectual benefits they have researched and experienced personally regarding music; benefits which they hope to bring to the students at Our Lady of the Rosary.

“It helps with different sorts of skills outside of music, such as memorization and work ethic,” said Marshall. “Even more, the corpus callosum is the part of the brain that links the right and left hemispheres of your brain. It is shown that in musicians, that connection is strengthened, likely due to them playing music, an activity that requires both sides of the brain to work together,” Marshall explained.

According to Amstutz, who practices vocal percussion and singing, music can even have a positive effect on the development of a person’s social and emotional intelligence. “The ability to connect with the audience, and influence them by showing an emotion through your voice and your movement on stage, is something that you can’t necessarily do anywhere else. Music just opens you up to expression,” he said.

There’s just one problem. There aren’t enough instruments at Our Lady of the Rosary. At the present, one instrument is shared between two or even three students. This means that students are not able to take an instrument home with them to practice, severely cutting back on the amount of time they have to learn how to play. Students are also limited in choice, so a particular instrument they wish to learn may not exist in the inventory. And in most cases, families are not able to afford an instrument for their child.

As access to instruments is limited, so are the materials that the school is able to provide for the music program. Music, which requires high quality instruments and expert teaching, can be an expensive art to learn and enjoy. With all of its benefits, music class at OLR might be the only chance at music for these students, and now their chances are being improved.

This is the issue CJ seniors are hoping to tackle through their capstone project. They have been going to OLR before their own school day even starts to accompany and assist Grieshop in teaching and providing direct service through instruction and mentorship. They have also been gathering donated instruments with the goal of providing each OLR student with their very own instrument. In the near future, they hope to organize a field trip for the OLR students to attend a CJ concert, or even a concert at the Schuster. “Organizing a professional musical experience for the kids may be a bit difficult logistically,” admitted Marshall, “but I believe that we can do it.”

“It is a great blessing to get to see younger kids experience the joy of music,” said Kocur. Although these gentlemen admit they have encountered challenges along the way, they are driven by the relationships they are forming and the benefits they see in the lives of the OLR students. They know it is time and energy well spent — and that the “lessons” of music will play on for a lifetime.

Posted December 6, 2018