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Music is Elementary

Few things in life are truly as universal as music. A language onto itself, music does transcend cultural differences and unites people. All major cultures of the world have music. And while some may think of the subject as pure entertainment, in our district it is an essential part of a well-rounded education.




In circle time, Thurston Elementary music teacher Michael Wilson pounds and slaps a conga and a set of bongos. A very attentive group of first graders pays attention to the different sounds and tones the instruments make. Eventually Mr. Wilson begins reading the bilingual children’s book My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia, based on the life of Cuban salsa icon Celia Cruz. The entire lesson was an introduction to the sounds and culture of Latin American music.

This special lesson is part of a larger effort to expand and enhance the performing arts programs at Springfield Public Schools. Starting in the 2023-24 school year, there are now certified full-time music teachers at all elementary schools. The investment translates into well over $1 million in staffing.

“One of the reasons for elementary music investment was to look at the long-term opportunities for our students,” said David Collins, assistant superintendent for Springfield Public Schools. “We knew that we had gaps in music offerings and the hope is that by providing these experiences earlier, as our students move up through our system and get into middle and high school, they will access the wonderful performing arts programs and opportunities that exist at those levels, which then ultimately expands into a very robust and powerful K-12 program.”

Many of the schools not only got more time with a certified music teacher, but they also received brand-new instruments, including ukuleles, recorders, violins, guitars, and xylophones. 

“As you look at the instruments being used, we had the opportunity to go back a decade and replace and replenish the instruments we’ve been using at that time,” said Collins. 

Charlotte Booren is the music teacher at Walterville Elementary and doubles as the Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) overseeing elementary music for the district. For Booren, the choice to expand the District’s music also represents an investment in transdisciplinary and cultural learning. 

 “Music permeates every discipline, I would say. I mean, you think about math, we're constantly talking about fractions when it comes to note values,” explains Booren. “In science, it's all about physics. We talk all the time about how a larger instrument is going to have a deeper tone than a smaller instrument. Why? Because of sound waves and space. Music is a fantastic memorization tool. We know the alphabet because it's set to a song.”

Spending time with Booren in her classroom, it’s apparent that music permeates many aspects of life, and therefore learning. She says the district’s investment in music is not only sound, but fun for all students.

Fourth grader Lena Smith at Walterville enjoys playing the recorder and the xylophone. When she is not voraciously reading books, she enjoys expressing herself through music.

“I like that we play a lot of instruments, and we get to do a lot of projects with instruments, because instruments are my favorite part of music,” says Lena.

“As educators, one of the most important things we try to do is tap each of our students into that inner passion” said Collins. “For some of our students, music does that. The importance of providing a well-rounded education for all of our students and seeing that translate is pretty exciting.”

It’s that excitement that can be seen and heard throughout Springfield, as the District’s youngest students, include Lena, sing and play their way to a more well-rounded education.