Becca Michaelson, Music Specialist at St. Paul City School
"My name is Becca Michaelson and I am the music specialist at St. Paul City school. I work at both our middle school and our primary school campuses and I see all our K-8 students. I teach band, sectionals, general music, and piano lessons on my lunch breaks.
Having an instrumental music background, I try to incorporate as much instrument playing as possible, given our limitations. Our collection of instruments is bleak, disheveled, and many have missing pieces. My mallet heads are secured by tape. They get re-broken daily- not because my students are banging on them, but because they're literally hanging on by a thread. Teaching any concept on the barred instruments becomes a frustrating, length experience because only 1/3 of the students are playing at once. Every child should have a barred instrument so we can play together and be united in music. I would like to have more of a variety of instruments such as alto and bass xylophones, glockenspiels, djembes, and boomwhackers. This would greatly help me teach about texture, harmony, tone color, and different musical parts. These concepts are in the state standards and I am having difficulty teaching them with the materials I have.
This year I brought recorders back because they weren't taught last year. I had the students buy their own. Remember, my students come from high poverty so I picked recorders that were only $2 each- not the greatest sounding but also not a financial hardship. Many of my students brought me the $2 in quarters, dimes, and even nickels. That shows me that they are taking ownership of their learning. When I gave them their recorder that they paid for with their own money, their faces lit up. They were so excited! I remember their faces then and I am trying to imagine what their faces will look like when they see brand new instruments that you are helping us purchase. They'll be floored! These new instruments will bring magic to my music class. My students already love when it's an instrument playing day. They are more focused because the reward is creating their own mostly beautiful sounds. They want to play. They want to be heard.
I work in a small charter school in the poorest, most diverse neighborhood in St. Paul with the bare minimum of materials and space. We do what we can with what we have and each success is so much sweeter because we have so little and we work so hard. My students deserve a rich musical education. Help me give that to them. Your donations tonight, big or small, will go towards enriching the lives of precious at-risk children.
What an honor it is to be here and to be the recipient of this year's Viva Musica grant. From myself and my fellow staff, you have our sincere gratitude for giving new life to my music class. Thank you Viva Musica for all that you do and thank YOU for being here tonight to support MUSIC. Thank you."
Becca Michaelson, Music Specialist at St. Paul City School and recipient of Viva Musica's 2014 Music Grant
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