Mt. Vernon News: Wiggins Street Students Work on Musical Skills

Wiggin Street Students Work on Musical Skills

Fifth House Ensemble member Parker Nelson greets the crowd of third through fifth grade students at Wiggin Street Elementary School Thursday. The workshop taught students the correlation between poetry and music.

by ALLISON GLASS News Staff Reporter

GAMBIER — Wiggin Street Elementary School played host to the Chicago- based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble on Thursday. The ensemble was fund- ed with a grant through Kenyon College.

The ensemble consists of founding member Melissa Snoza, flute; Grace Hong, oboe; Eric Heidbreder, bassoon; and Parker Nelson, French horn. The members met through a symphony orchestra in Chicago and founded Fifth House in 2005.

The group taught two workshops at the school, the first to kindergarten through second grade students, which focused on using music to tell a story; while the second workshop taught third through fifth grade students about the correlation between music and poetry.

“We’ve had an initiative in the district to work on developing writing skills,” said Wiggin Street music teacher Sarah Reyes. “Many of the pieces coincide with our music education curriculum. The students seem to be doing well with grasping these concepts, they are very engaged.”

The kindergarten through second grade workshop focused on the basic elements of a story and set them to music, according to Reyes. The ensemble would set characters, plots, setting, etc., each to a phrase of music and combine them all to tell a full story.

The third through fifth grade workshop started by introducing the concept of using music to express emotions and moods. They used musical methods — tempo, register, etc. to show the students what might come next in a poem.

The first activity in this workshop was all about linking images and emotion to music. Three students were selected from the audience and asked to write words that they thought coincided with the musical selection. The up-tempo and lively piece was described by the students as “joyful, happy and fun.” One student went so far as to describe a mirthful “party where someone stole everything and ran away,” due to the higher register and faster tempo.

The second activity encouraged the students to use elements of music to draw characters. They were asked to listen to a selection of music and draw the character that came to mind while listening to it. Its slow tempo and low pitches invoked slow characters, like a stealthy, hunting jaguar, a dachshund and an elephant.

The final activity, called “Create-a-Poem” was essentially a game of Mad-Libs, where-in the ensemble would play a few phrases of music and then ask the stu- dents to come up with a part of speech that went with it. They created a poem called “The Land of Angry,” which featured “click-baiters” in a place where everything is “fuzzy.”

Fifth House does about 150 educational events a year and they reach about 17,000 students, according to Snoza. They also feature five to 16 week residencies. In some residencies, partici- pants are afflicted with issues of homelessness or poverty and are encouraged by the ensemble to find their own unique, artistic voice by combining their personal stories with music.

Fifth House Ensemble is currently leading a work- shop at Kenyon which focus- es on leading and creating arts-based organizations. They will be discussing young musicianship and creating music-based start ups.

Kenyon College hosted the Fifth House Ensemble for a “Journey Live” concert Friday night.

 This article originally appeared in Mt. Vernon News on Saturday, February 17th.

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