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JPS Students & Staff Continue to Make Beautiful Music

“Today, we are going to go over some rhythms. Does anyone remember these rhythms from Tuesday?” asked Washington Middle School general music/choral teacher, Marie Karbacka, to her students through a Zoom. “We were looking at the musical notes and talking about ‘ta-ti and taas’ - different rhythms. And we were counting the different rhythms using those symbols. The rhythms we looked at are actually rhythms to a really famous song, the Cup Song.”

            Ms. Karbacka played the song for the students while also demonstrating the rhythm from the song with her hands and a red Solo cup. Then, she gave the kids time to find a cup from their home. She taught the kids how to do the rhythms using the cup and clapping on-line as a group. Ms. Karbacka’s students have been working on the musical elements, such as beat, rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, etc. She is concentrating on rhythm and melodic notation and students will start composing short rhythmic and melodic pieces of music in the coming weeks. 

“Right now, I am teaching both my distance learning and in person classes the Cup Song from Pitch Perfect, the movie.  Most kids know this song or movie well.  It is a really fun way of manipulating a common household item such as a cup to use as a musical instrument to produce a rhythmic ostinato to accompany the song.”

Ms. Karbacka’s class is just one way beautiful music continues at Jamestown Public Schools, even with the challenges of COVID-19. Music teachers across the district are rolling their music carts full of fun and learning into students’ home classrooms and also teaching virtually through Zoom or Google Classroom.

Elementary music teacher Jennie Cross, teaches both in-person and virtually. A recent, in-person class at Love Elementary School focused on “steady beats” using their hands in different ways to find the beat.

            “What is tempo?” asked Ms. Cross.

            “It means, are you going fast or slow!” said a student.

            “Yes, perfect. Tempo is the speed of the music. So let’s listen to the tempo,” said Ms. Cross as she played Brave by Sara Bareilles. “Let’s find the beat!”

Ms. Cross led her in-person students in an interactive, whole-body lesson on the difference in beats, rhythms and tempos. For her third and fourth grade virtual students, she is using Google Classroom where she created a Bitmoji classroom in Google Slides. Every week, she posts a new slide show where she can write announcements and tasks on the board. She can also "turn the white board into a TV" and link lesson videos that she uploads to YouTube for the students to watch.

In addition to music classes, ensembles such as chorus, orchestra and band are finding unique ways to engage students. All three middle school bands are going to take musical “adventures” through an innovative program created by Persell Middle School band director, Marc Lentsch. Students have the opportunity to choose their own adventure performance track, as they will not be able to rehearse or perform as a band right now.

“We had been thinking for some time about how we can give our students the opportunity to connect more with their community,” said Mr. Lentsch. “Since we cannot have rehearsals or group performances due to safety concerns, we thought this was a great opportunity to let students connect to a theme they like, then perform in some way for their community and add a service component. We think it will be a great way for them to connect their lives outside of school to what they are learning \ and bring music directly to their community.”

Students can choose from three adventure performance tracks: Holiday, Patriotic or Jazz. Within each adventure there are suggestions for performance options as an individual or small group designed to bring pride and joy to the community. For the holiday track, Students can perform porch concerts for their family or neighborhood, perform at church or help by performing during Salvation Bell Ringing. The Patriotic Adventure pays tribute to our country by asking the kids to perform “Taps Across America” or perform at public spaces on Election Day. The Jazz adventure suggests performing outside the National Comedy Center or a coffee shop.

At Jamestown High School, band, chorus and orchestra ensembles have had weekly ensemble meetings with virtual lessons beginning for students. JHS Choral Director Lauren Scharf is teaching the freshman cohorts registered for mixed chorus in person after school. The JHS Marching Band is also scheduled to begin practice at the beginning of October.