Behind the music

Music offers youths chance to express themselves, learn life skills

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Some students wring their hands.

Others wave to Mom in the audience.

Third-grader Abbey Lincke gets butterflies in her stomach.

"There's a lot of people out in the audience," Lincke said.

Sure, they're nervous. They're about to show off all the songs they've learned throughout the year.

For Chad Johnson, Lincke's music teacher and Soaring Singers director at East Elementary School, being a bit nervous is good.

"They learn early on that anxiety isn't necessarily a bad thing, and they learn to deal with it at a young age," he said.

That's one of many benefits music has for young people, Johnson said. He and Sunrise Singers director Denise Whitney of Sunset Elementary School teamed up for the "Music Touches Lives" Spring Concert on Tuesday night in recognition of Music in Our Schools Month.

The National Association for Music Education designates March as the music month "to remind citizens that school is where all children should have access to music," according to the organization's Web site.

The association argues that including music in children's lives leads them to be well-rounded, by increasing creativity, work ethic and self-discipline.

Johnson agreed with the association's claims.

"I think for a lot of (my students) it's a way of self expression," Johnson said. "It gives kids a chance to relate their own personal experience to the emotions in the music."

And for students who are shy, performing can bring them out of their shell, Johnson said.

"That leads to self-esteem in a big way, too," he said.

Charleah Firestone, Craig Intermediate School's music teacher, leads the after-school choir Kids from the Country. She likens singing in the fifth- and sixth-grade chorus to playing a sport.

"You have to function as a group," Firestone said. "Everyone has to work as a team to pull off your program."

And committing to such a team is no easy task.

Misty Gallegos, mother of Sunset fourth-grader Dakota Curtis, said students agree to stay after school twice a week to practice throughout the year.

"(It teaches my daughter) discipline to be responsible to make those meetings," Gallegos said. "And it gives her a positive outlet instead of getting into trouble."

First Christian Church takes that same approach with its Joyful Noisemakers choir, a group of kindergartners to sixth-graders who meet weekly to practice songs, skits and choreography.

They also spend time participating in religious activities.

"We worship God, and it's fun," 6-year-old Alyssa Zimmerman said.

Firestone said perhaps children learn more than the fundamentals of music by singing in a choir.

They learn pitch and harmony and make some new friends. But learning about themselves or using their voices to give back to the community is touching, Firestone said.

Kids from the Country sings for Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab and Sunset Meadows residents and for patients at The Memorial Hospital.

"I guess it's uplifting to me to see. And those people just adore those kids when they come," Firestone said. "You get a little blessed singing for someone who's so appreciative."

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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