While WMU’s spring semester may have come to an end, school has not. Kalamazoo Public Schools are still in session which means Kids in Tune has work to be done. We have just two more days of after school program until our final concert. With a performance at Kalamazoo’s Art Hop under our belts, we are on our way to a significant milestone not only in the lives of the students but also for our program.
Musicians and concert-goers alike have asked me, “why did you choose to do music?” The short answer to this question is that there is no short answer. Much like the putting together a puzzle, it takes having all the right pieces, time, and a bit of luck. The other day, I realized that I had forgotten about one of those pieces. Since KIT happens after school, I am usually coming in at the end of the day when Jeanna Cervantes-Hickman and Sue Larson are finishing up with their music classes. I came in during storytime and as not to interrupt or become a distraction, I decided to sit my tush down on the floor and listen to the end of the book. As Ms. Larsen was singing with the kids I was struck by a memory of my own elementary music teacher.
Mary Peterson, teacher, singer, and pianist extraordinaire, was the elementary music teacher of my childhood. Sitting at her upright piano with an impressive collection of festive sweaters correct for every occasion and holiday, Mrs. Peterson was a fixture of my musical development as a child. We sang, explored different instruments, learned about music history, and performed regularly for the community. I was getting cello lessons (thanks Mom, thanks Dad) but I cannot underestimate the value Mrs. Peterson’s classroom. I remember the class listening to Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and when Le Cygne (The Swan) was played, Mrs. Peterson said “Chas, you know what that is right?” It was another piece of the puzzle that eventually led me to where I am today.
Performing musicians get a lot of recognition. We are stopped on the street and asked about our instruments. We are applauded and cheered in the concert hall. But behind every artist there are countless teachers whose hard work does not always get recognized. Maybe it is because color-coded pitched instruments and Christmas concerts aren’t glamorous or flashy. Maybe it is because of the teacher's humility. Or, just maybe, it is because they really love how music can change a child’s life and they themselves are too satisfied with that to notice anything else. I give thanks for all our music educators and the service they provide for our society.