Students celebrate music month
FAIRMONT — March is Music In Our Schools Month and Fairmont Elementary School has been celebrating all month long.
Every student in the building, preschool through 6th grade, takes a general music class. Once they reach 3rd grade, they can choose whether or not they want to join choir and once they reach 5th grade, they can choose between band, choir and orchestra.
The school has four music teachers: Elizabeth Shimon teaches kindergarten through 3rd grade general music; Kim Breamer teaches 5th and 6th grade band and 4th grade general music; Emily Labes teaches preschool, 3rd through 6th grade general music and 3rd through 6th grade choir; Katie Koenning teaches 5th through 12th grade orchestra.
When asked what the favorite part of her job is, Shimon said, “I love to share a love of music with children. It’s absolutely fun and exciting on different levels every day.”
Labes said she enjoys the wide range of ages she teaches as her students range from the youngest in the school to the oldest.
Aside from enjoying what they do, the teachers recognize the importance of teaching music.
“I feel it’s important because it’s something anyone can do and participate in. Music gives everyone a chance to participate and not “sit on the bench.” They all get to participate,” Breamer said.
“Music surrounds us. Kids encounter music in their daily life, in the car, on TV, on video games. Providing them with a music education makes them more aware and appreciative of their encounters with music in their daily life,” Labes said.
Shimon said she likes how music can be used to convey feelings and she can teach kids about feelings through music.
While many other school districts are cutting fine arts programs, Fairmont Area Schools has seen an increase in the number of students joining.
“We have the support of every administrator and they’re willing to listen to our needs in sustaining and growing our programs,” Labes said.
Shimon said she believes that not only does the school district support music, but the whole community does as well.
“We have a wonderful Opera House and the Red Rock Center. It’s not just something that the kids get in school, they see it in a lot of other areas and we have a lot of adults in the community that support it,” Shimon said.
Koenning said she’s been amazed by the amount of 5th graders who sign up to take band, orchestra or choir.
“I didn’t see that happening when I was a 5th grader or at other schools I student taught at. Families are really supportive of their children joining,” Koenning said.
In fact, so many elementary students have joined the orchestra program that the school was running out of classroom space. The CER office will be moving into a new building in the coming months so that the orchestra classroom can expand into that space.
When asked why Koenning believes the program has grown so much, she said she believes it has to do with a $50,000 grant the district received two years ago from The Schmeeckle Foundation. The money was used to purchase new band and orchestra instruments.
“That really gave us the foundation to support the kids with quality instruments that not only teaches them how to play but keeps them in the program,” Koenning said.
When Koenning began teaching at Fairmont Area Schools in 2018, there were 159 students in the orchestra program. This year there are 174 in grades 5-12. Between 5th and 6th grade alone, there are 73 students in orchestra this year.
To celebrate Music In Our Schools Month, the elementary school has been doing a music-themed March madness this month with students grades K-6.
They’ve also done dress-up days each Friday that coincides with different music genres. Themes this month have included Blues day, country music and island sounds. All students preschool through 6th grade, and staff members have been participating.