S.F. school students experience adventures in music

San Francisco elementary schoolchildren in attendance at Davies Hall today won’t be playing hooky — they’ll be listening to a symphonic concert.

The performance is part of Adventures in Music, a remarkably successful San Francisco Symphony-sponsored education project celebrating its 20th anniversary in partnership with San Francisco schools this year.

The program — which combines interdisciplinary classroom instruction, specialized curriculum at different grade levels and live presentations from professional musicians — reaches every child in first through fifth grade in San Francisco Unified District School, as well as students at some parochial and charter schools.

Ron Gallman, director of education programs for the symphony, said, “AIM teaches about music in a most universal way; it’s also been shown to help students achieve in other academic areas, and to increase their understanding of cultures other than their own.”

The program was in heavy-duty action last week at Gordon J. Lau Elementary in Chinatown during a 30-minute visit from Drei Brass, a lively ensemble featuring AliciaTedford on French horn, Don Kennelly on trombone and Zachariah Spellman on tuba.

Playing a brilliant fanfare and announcing themselves as ambassadors of “buzz,” the musicians gleefully demonstrated how all sound is vibration, and how when they go “pfffft” into their instruments’ mouthpieces, the vibrations travel around the tubing, and come out the end, or bell.

Delighted first- and second-graders in the not-too-large audience ate up the show, likely not knowing that “ambassador,” “brass,” “march,” “valve,” “slide” and even the German word for “three” were in a vocabulary list on a detailed lesson plan provided for free by AIM to their teachers and the performers.

Even better, the performance was participatory. Students, with their own AIM-supplied kazoos in mouths, made their own vibrations. Pointing their bells to the ceiling, they joined the trio on a couple of tunes, including “Flight of the Bumblebee” and a terrific rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “March of the Nutcracker.”

Principal Marlene Callejas, thrilled with how the kazoos won the kids over, said, “Music is the great equalizer. Plus, the students go back to their classrooms and write about it.”

Gallman, who has overseen AIM since its inception, said, “When kids are excited, and they’re engaged, then they’re learning, and it’s making an impact.”

Not every aspect of AIM is without complication. Program manager Andrea Yannone deals with some of the tricky details, including ensuring supplies are available and logistics.

“The scheduling is always going to be an issue,” she said. But the minimal downside is far outweighed by the program’s benefits.

“I’m the one who gets to go to all of the schools, and gets to know all of our wonderful principals,” she said. “The relationships between AIM and the teachers and principals remain strong and productive.”

Callejas echoed the sentiment, thanking AIM for providing “everything” the schools need to run a successful program.

She said, “Without this program, I don’t think very much appreciation for the arts would be happening.”

lkatz@examiner.com  

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