At the middle schools, students would have to participate in a designated music class like choir or band to get music instruction — unlike Burbank elementary school students who have music instruction in their normal class time.
“This program here allows them some exposure to music,” Dima said. “As far as being in a classroom setting, that’s the only music they’re getting here.”
Teaching artist and professional opera singer Malesha Jessie taught Dima’s social studies class on Thursday. The class learned definitions of music terms and delved into the connections between them.
Eventually students will learn to write music and lyrics as well as analyze lyrics of existing songs, like they analyzed the lyrics of “Lean on Me” Thursday afternoon.
“Ten points for anyone who can spell rhythm,” Jessie said.
The students nearly exploded out of their seats, hands raised and fingers fanned out, as they tried to provide her with the answer.
The students, who Dima said were an unusually good group, participated in the vocabulary and music lesson with zeal at every turn.
By incorporating the music with the state’s literacy curriculum standards, Jessie will be able to provide instruction to the children that meets both visual and performing arts and literacy guidelines, said Bradley Kesden, executive director of the Rock the Classroom program.
With hands-on instruction that adds music to the mix, students are able to become more engaged in their work, said Peggy Flynn, the district’s arts coordinator.
“The concepts they may not be able to understand from text books become crystal clear,” Flynn said.
Right before singing their final song of the day together, Jessie explained the meaning of a beat by asking the children to press their fingers to their wrists.
“Can everyone feel the beat in your pulse?” Jessie asked, as the students nodded. “That is the rhythm of your body.”
Along with the meaning of words like beat, rhythm, melody and pitch, students also learned the root language of words like “genre” and “tempo.”
“This is a sharp group,” Jessie said when the students recalled the meaning of “tempo” and its Italian root.
“Yeah,” said 11-year-old Ericka Hall. “We rock.”